As we step into the first few months of 2020, it seems like everywhere you turn, someone is talking about the dreaded coronavirus. Talk of coronavirus has incited a rising panic – with people across the globe preparing for the worst.
What Is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus is a virus that primarily affects the respiratory system. While there are around a dozen different types of coronaviruses, only three are able to infect humans. Our current health threat is a strain of coronavirus officially known as SARS-COV-2 and causes a disease which has been dubbed Covid-19.1
It’s thought to be an airborne virus – meaning it’s spread from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when someone coughs or sneezes. These droplets can end up on a surface (like your hands or a doorknob) and then be spread if you come into contact with the contaminated surface.
Once the coronavirus is contracted, symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening.
What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?
The coronavirus can remain latent for anywhere from two to 14 days – meaning people can be infected without showing any symptoms. The main symptoms of coronavirus are:2
- Shortness of breath
But those infected may experience additional symptoms including:
- Muscular stiffness and pain
- Loss of appetite
- Malaise, extreme generalised fatigue
- Night sweats
- Stomach upset, such as nausea or diarrhea
The symptoms of coronavirus are quite similar to the flu – adding to the hysteria as flu season has been in full swing.
Is the Coronavirus Deadly?
Currently, the coronavirus is estimated to have at most a two to three percent fatality rate.1 And while that might sound scary at first glance, it’s important to put those numbers into perspective.
At the time of this article, a little over 2,500 people have died from coronavirus. Compare that to an estimated 291,00 to 646,000 people that die from the seasonal flu every year across the globe.3 Even if the deaths from coronavirus increased by a hundredfold, the number of deaths would only be approaching the lower limits of the estimated death toll caused by existing strains of the flu virus.
So in short, yes, the coronavirus can be deadly. But the vast majority of individuals who contract coronavirus have mild symptoms that resolve without complication. Some have no symptoms at all, which is why people are often walking around or traveling and spreading the virus without even knowing they are infected. And those most at risk of death have other pre-existing conditions that leave their immune or respiratory system compromised. Those at risk are patients with uncontrolled diabetes, heart disease, COPD or emphysema, the elderly or immune-compromised.
Let’s take a deeper look at exactly how the coronavirus affects the body so you can have a better understanding of how to protect yourself.
How Exactly Does the Coronavirus Affect the Body?
The “SARS” in the coronaviruses’ official name “SARS-COV-2” stands for “Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome” because it can cause a sudden onset of respiratory failure. Coronavirus can lead to respiratory failure by causing:4
- Damage to the membrane where gas is exchanged in your lungs (the alveolar-capillary barrier)
- Oxidative injury
- An uncontrolled inflammation from excessive production of cytokines
If your body becomes infected, the virus attaches to the surface of epithelial cells in the lungs, spleen, and lymphatic system. Once your body is alerted to the invaders, your immune system goes to work and deploys immune cells and sets off a cascade of chemical messengers, causing what is known as a “cytokine storm.” Cytokines are a type of chemical messenger the immune system uses to communicate with the rest of the body.
This flooding of cytokines and immune cells into the tissues of the respiratory tract is what causes damage to the alveolar-capillary barrier, oxidative injury, and uncontrolled inflammation.
This combination essentially halts the lung cell’s ability to move mucus out of the lungs and triggers the immune system to begin attacking your own lung cells. In susceptible individuals whose immune or respiratory systems are compromised, this can result in a severe lack of oxygen in the body, which eventually leads to death.
Fortunately, your chances of dying from coronavirus are pretty slim. But there are some simple steps you can and should take to protect yourself from coronavirus.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Coronavirus?
When it comes to defending yourself against coronavirus, it’s best to take a two-pronged approach: avoiding potential contact with the virus and bolstering your natural ability to fight infection. Here’s what I recommend:
The most effective way to prevent the spread of germs is pretty straightforward. Simply taking some basic precautions to keep viruses and bacteria from entering your body can go a long way in keeping you safe.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water – scrubbing all surfaces of your hands for at least 20 seconds. And don’t forget under the fingernails!
- Use an alcohol-based hand non-toxic sanitizer to clean your hands if soap and water aren’t available. And only if your hands aren’t visibly soiled. Always choose soap and water if available over hand sanitizer.
- Always wash your hands before eating or touching your face.
- Regularly clean and disinfect any frequently touched objects or surfaces with cleaning sprays or wipes.
- Stay home if you’re sick or feeling under the weather.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
These tips may sound simple, but they’re powerful, and just doing these things will go a long way. I suggest incorporating these healthy habits into your daily routines – coronavirus or not.
Keep Your Immune System in Top Shape
Coming into contact with some germs is unavoidable. But keeping your immune system in tip-top shape is your best defense against any microorganisms that might make their way to your body.
To keep your immune system running at full force, here’s what I recommend:
- Get plenty of restful sleep. Your immune system requires large amounts of energy, so it depends on adequate sleep to function at full capacity. Aim for a minimum of 7-8 hours of quality restful sleep each night, preferably at least 90 minutes of both deep sleep and REM. Use a sleep tracking app like Sleep Score or Sleep Tracker or Oura ring to keep motivated, like I do.
- Reduce stress. Emotional stress not only increases inflammation, but it also puts a damper on your immune system – meaning double trouble when it comes to your body’s ability to fight off invaders. Taking steps to minimize stress and finding healthy ways to process the unavoidable stress (like practicing meditation) can go a long way in keeping your immune system healthy.
- Give your gut some love. Your gut health and your immune system are intricately linked, so keeping your digestive tract happy will, in turn, keep your immune system up and running. Make sure you’re eating a healthy well-rounded diet based on real foods, going to the bathroom regularly to eliminate toxins, and healing any issues you may have like leaky gut syndrome.
A holistic approach to health, wellness, and disease prevention is the most effective. So be sure to address all these aspects of your health.
So, How Concerned Should You Really Be?
Just like nearly all contagious illnesses, coronavirus should be taken seriously.
With some simple preventative measures, you can drastically reduce your chances of contracting coronavirus or any other infectious illness. The best thing you can do is stay at home and abide by the rules set up by your local government officials.
Being proactive through educating yourself and taking measures to keep your immune system running on all cylinders is your best bet when it comes to protecting yourself and your loved ones against this emerging virus.
Now it’s time to hear from you. Are you surprised by anything you learned about the coronavirus? What steps are you taking to keep you and your family safe? Leave your questions and thoughts in the comments below!
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease state or medical condition and has not been evaluated by the <a href="https://www.fda.gov/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FDA</a>. This is not intended to replace any recommendations by or relationship with your physician. The references included in each article allude to the level of scientific rigor I have applied to my writing. When changes become apparent we will update the information if appropriate.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.