Responding to COVID-19

Movie cinema billboard with three basic rules to avoid the coronavirus or Covid-19 epidemic of wash hands, maintain social distance and clean surfaces

Steve here. I sent an expanded version of this information to my practice and I wanted to make sure you all have this info too. 


COVID-19 is the name given to the disease caused by a new strain of corona virus named SARS-CoV-2. There are many different kinds of corona viruses and most cause upper respiratory infections like colds. Viruses mutate. That’s what they do. One might even argue that stirring the earth’s pot of DNA is one of their jobs. So, it is not unheard-of for new viruses to pop up from time to time. SARS and MERS are examples of other spontaneously-emerging corona viruses.


Like most cold viruses, it is spread by breathing in infected droplets in the air and by contacting surfaces infected by these droplets, or other’s hands, and then getting into your eyes, nose, or mouth. Recent studies suggest that the virus can stay alive for up to four hours in the air and for 2-3 days on some hard surfaces


The average number of other people who get infected from one person, is estimated to be between 2-3. This virus is spreading so quickly because essentially all of us are susceptible. As more and more people get through the infection, how quickly it spreads will slow down. Right now, the data on the fatality rate is still early but what we think we’re seeing is that children are barely affected, adults up to age 60 or so feel like a chest cold, older people and people with pre-existing lung or heart disease are dying more often, up to 15%.


Right now, in the US, the fatality rate looks pretty high because we haven’t tested very many people and have no idea the actual infection rate in the general population. Hopefully, in the coming weeks as testing becomes more available, we’ll get a clearer picture of what is really happening.


For now, your best protection is to stay out of crowded places and public places that don’t get disinfected regularly, wash your hands with soap regularly, and stay conscious about keeping your hands out of your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you are infected, wearing a mask can decrease the chances that you’ll infect someone else. If you are not infected, wearing a mask, unless it is specially designed for it, doesn’t seem to protect you from getting infected.


If you want a more natural disinfectant for your own home, a 60% alcohol solution is effective. We make our own by mixing vodka with rubbing alcohol. If you used 40% vodka (80 proof) and 70% isopropyl, you would want a 1:2 ratio of vodka to isopropyl. Hope this helps you make your own less-toxic, more natural antiseptic to use at home.


Obviously, if you are responsible for a public space, such as a business, sanitation is extremely important right now. As an example, my medical clinic has always followed nationally mandated cleanliness procedures for our professions. However, in consultation with King County public health, and the CDC recommendations, we are adding new procedures to assure the safety of our patients, providers, and loved ones. We have two UV-light HEPA-type filters running that kill viruses, bacteria and fungi in the air. We are wiping down all common contact surfaces with a 60% alcohol solution between each patient. We are wiping down all common contact surfaces at the end of the day with a Clorox solution. We ask that everyone wash their hands for 20 seconds minimum or use hand sanitizer on the counter upon entering the clinic. We also recommend that people bring a pen from home for use in the clinic.


There are also things you can do to be personally more resilient. Higher levels of intracellular zinc have been found to slow down the enzyme that the virus uses to replicate its RNA. We don’t know if high enough levels can be obtained by taking oral zinc, but taking extra zinc probably wouldn’t hurt. Also, therapeutic doses of Vitamin C, which, in my opinion, is at least two grams three times per day, may also lower your chances of getting infected. Also, elderberry is thought to help block the virus from getting into cells in the first place. There are elderberry/zinc lozenges on the market.


If you do get COVID-19, it can lead to a viral pneumonia. Most of the fluid in the lungs comes from the body’s own attempt to fight the virus. Higher doses of Vitamin B6 can slow this process and perhaps make the pneumonia more survivable. The virus uses the angiotensin II receptor to get into the cell in the first place and, theoretically, high doses of Angiotensin Receptor Blockers, a kind of blood pressure medicine, could keep an infection from getting really severe. People are also looking into the anti-retroviral drugs, used to treat AIDS, for severely ill patients with COVID-19.


So, there is hope. If you’ve had a cold in the last couple of months, you may have already had COVID-19. Soon, the rapid spread will slow, and we will get better and better at preventing and treating it. In the meantime, wash your hands, take your Vitamin C, zinc and elderberry, and enjoy your Netflix.


Be safe and love each other (from a distance).

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