It’s hard to avoid news about the coronavirus – also known as COVID-19. What can you do to reduce the risk of infection, not just from the coronavirus, but also from other respiratory infections?
Viruses and the immune system
Viruses can’t reproduce on their own. They must bind to a host cell and use that cell’s capabilities to replicate itself hundreds or even thousands of times. Eventually the infected cell dies, releasing the virus to attack more cells, potentially overwhelming the immune system.
Our first line of defence is our mucosa. Our innate mucosal protection – mucous membranes, epithelium – along with our innate and adaptive immunity (T cells, secretory IgA, immunoglobulins, lymphocytes, etc) are important for long-term immune health.
Viruses like the coronavirus and influenza are often spread from person to person via droplets from our respiratory system through coughs or sneezes which get inhaled into the lungs. It is not clear at this time if coronavirus can live on surfaces and be transmitted after touching an affected surface and then the mouth, nose or eyes. Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and is more likely to be transmitted when a person is the most symptomatic (the sickest).
Little is known about this new virus in terms of behaviour, how it spreads, and how it can be treated. Those who have died from the virus have mostly had pre-existing health conditions. The most at-risk are those with underlying medical conditions or otherwise compromised immunity, and those in close proximity to someone infected with the virus.
What can you do to minimise the risk of getting sick?
Eat a healthy diet. Aim for 5 to 10 servings of colourful fruit and vegetables every day. Dietary vitamins and minerals help boost your immune system and help with prevention.
Minimise sugar and alcohol intake which can drain the immune system. Choose healthier options, such as nuts and seeds, dark chocolate, filtered water, herbal tea, kombucha and kefir.
Prioritise sleep and relaxation. Research has shown that being short on sleep increases your risk of developing the common cold. Aim for 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Increase your chances of getting a restful night by practising good sleep hygiene, meditating before bed, doing light yoga or stretching, and not using screens within an hour of bedtime.
Support your gut health by eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi and drinking kombucha and kefir. Other gut supporting foods are onions, garlic, leeks, and Jerusalem artichoke. Taking a quality probiotic daily can also help strengthen your immune system.
Supplements can help support your immunity. Supplements which are known to have immune boosting effects are silver, zinc, and vitamin C, amongst others. Everyone has different needs, and supplements can interact with medications, so self-prescribing is not recommended. Contact us directly for an appointment to discuss your individual needs.
Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day. Avoid touching your nose, mouth and eyes. Cough into your elbow. Sneeze into a tissue and immediately throw it away. If your immune system is compromised, avoid being in crowded places as much as possible.
There's a lot of media attention surrounding this new virus, and it's important to keep perspective and learn the facts:
Based on worldwide data, the fatality rate of Covid-19 is approximately 3.4%, and of those, almost all had a pre-existing condition.
As of the end of February 2020, there were under 83,000 confirmed cases worldwide, and 2,817 deaths. By comparison, there were 1 billion estimated flu cases (non Covid-19) and almost 650,000 deaths.
Compared to past outbreaks, the mortality rate of SARS (2003) was 10% and MERS (2012) 34%.
Wash your hands well, and for at least 20 seconds
Avoid contact with infected people
Don't touch your face (eyes, nose, mouth)