The world is in panic, somewhat rightly so. A lot is being written about coronavirus, but not all of it is accurate. Here is some of the lesser-known information and some perspective you may not read in many other places. It includes the only all-inclusive guide to using supplements for prevention or treatment of the novel coronavirus.
What is Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19?)
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) results from infection with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). The first case was in Wuhan China on December 31st, 2019 and the virus was identified on January 7th, 2020. COVID-19 belongs to a group of viruses known as coronaviruses (CoV), which cause many different infections.
Other coronaviruses have resulted in infectious outbreaks in recent years, including:
- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV): This virus was first detected in 2002 in the Guangdong province of China. Over 8,000 cases were reported around the world, with 774 deaths (mostly in individuals ages 65 or older). The source was identified as civet cats that were sold for food in a live-animal market; however, the cats had likely been infected by contact with bats. SARS has not been detected since 2004 (1).
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV): This virus was first reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, which then spread to nearby Jordan. Through 2019, approximately 2,500 cases and 850 related deaths have been reported in 27 different countries. All cases of MERS were linked to residence or travel in and around the Arabian Peninsula. The most likely source of the virus is dromedary camels (1).
What are the differences between COVID-19 and the flu?
While there is continued growing concern about COVID-19, it is important to remember that flu season is still in full swing, and both viruses share many similarities. However, there are some key differences to note between the two as well (2).
- COVID-19 is caused by a single virus, which has been named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
- The flu is caused by many different strains of the influenza virus. Human influenza A and B are the culprits behind the annual flu season, during the winter.
- Both infections cause cough, fever, fatigue, and body aches; in severe cases, vomiting and diarrhea can occur
- Pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death can occur in the most serious cases of both
- Both are spread from person-to-person contact, mainly from an infected individual sneezing, coughing or talking
- An infected person can spread the flu for several days before they show symptoms, and it is believed that this is true for COVID-19 as well (estimates for COVID-19 are up to 14 days)
- COVID-19: There is currently no vaccine available to prevent COVID-19, but scientists and companies are working quickly to develop one.
- Flu: A vaccine is released every year to prevent infection with the most common and dangerous strains of flu; additionally, the vaccine can reduce the severity of symptoms if you become infected
Infections and deaths
While the COVID-19 pandemic may seem threatening and scary, it has infected and killed only a very small percentage of people compared to the flu. The statistics for each virus are:
- COVID-19: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) report as of April 7, 2020:
- 1,279,722 cases
- 72,614 related deaths (5.7% death rate)
- United States
- 374,329 cases in all 50 states and 4 territories
- 12,064 related deaths (1.4% death rate)
- Flu: The CDC estimates:
- 1 billion cases per year
- 291,000 to 646,000 related deaths (0.03% – 0.06% death rate)
- United States
- Between 9.3 million to 45 million cases per year
- 12,000 to 61,000 related deaths (0.1% death rate)
Seasonality of COVID-19
We do not know yet if COVID-19 will be impacted by weather or temperature. Many viruses are killed by heat; each one has a different heat tolerance though. Most cases of the flu and common cold occur in winter, but it is still possible to become sick other months of the year. Some hypotheses of why viruses spread more in the winter than other seasons are:
Days are shorter in the winter, limiting the amount of vitamin D or melatonin a person makes; these factors negatively impact the immune system
People spend more time indoors and in close contact with one another to stay out of harsh winter weather, spreading viruses more readily
Viruses may survive better in colder, drier climates and are more easily transmitted from person to person
Who is most impacted by COVID-19?
It is possible for anyone to become infected by COVID-19. Generally, if you are in good health, the virus will be very similar to the flu. Reports from China showed that approximately 80% of patients with confirmed cases had mild symptoms not requiring medical treatment or hospitalization. However, there are risk factors that increase your chance of infection. Some populations are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, such as:
- Older adults (60 years or older)
- People with serious chronic medical conditions such as:
- Lung disease
- Heart disease
Individuals who are immunocompromised also need to take special precautions, as their immune systems are not strong enough to fight infections. These include:
- People who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation for cancer treatment
- Patients who recently had organ transplants
- People who have certain genetic disorders that lower the immune system
If you are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19, there are steps you can take to protect yourself further, including:
- Stay home if you can, to prevent contact with other people
- If you do go out, wear a face mask, keep far away from any people and wash your hands often
- Stock up on supplies to reduce the need to go out, including food, water, medication and other necessities
- Avoid any unnecessary travel by bus, train, airplane, ferry or cruise ship
- Start taking immune-boosting dietary supplements (see further down)
COVID-19 and Children
There is a general concern that children are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection because they are young. However, there is no evidence that this is true. The majority of confirmed cases reported from countries around the world have occurred in adults, while few have been reported in children, but there are pediatric cases and deaths. Comparing COVID-19 to other coronavirus outbreaks, such as SARS and MERS, infection among children was relatively uncommon (3).
Symptoms in children are similar to those in adults:
Gastrointestinal problems have also been reported in at least one child. Other symptoms being seen in pediatric ERs are chest and abdominal pain, then an X-ray or CT scan shows the lung damage typical with COVID.
Reports from China also suggest that symptoms in children are milder, and more severe complications are uncommon. Like adults, children with preexisting health conditions may be at an increased risk for infection and more severe symptoms (3).
How is COVID-19 spread?
The most common method of transmission of COVID-19 is from person-to-person. The chances of spread are greater when people are in close contact with one another. Initial reports showed the virus could spread up to 6 feet but newer reports suggest infection from much further distances, as much as 27 feet. Additionally, the virus can be spread through respiratory droplets if an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can then land on a nearby person’s mouth or nose or can be inhaled and expose them to infection.
For this reason, it is best to cough or sneeze into a tissue to prevent droplets from entering the air. Be sure to throw away used tissues in the trash. Afterward, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer that contains 60% or more alcohol can also be used if no soap is available.
A face mask needs to be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by preventing the widespread release of respiratory droplets from a sick person’s mouth and nose.
- If you are sick: Wear a face mask when around other people (sharing spaces such as rooms or vehicles) and before you enter a healthcare facility. If you cannot wear a mask, be sure to cover all sneezes and coughs and take necessary precautions to limit contact with others.
- If you are not sick: Wear a mask anytime you leave home to protect you from getting sick and also in case you are a healthy carrier of the virus.
It is imperative that healthcare workers wear N95 or comparable masks while caring for COVID-19 patients.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19, the most important thing you can do is stay home. Not only will this help your recovery, but it will also prevent further spread of the virus.
Coronaviruses can be transmitted between people and animals, and it is important to limit your contact with animals if you are infected. If possible, another member of your household should take care of your pets when you are sick. If you have COVID-19, avoid contact with your pets through:
- Being kissed or licked
- Sharing food
To prevent further spread, wash your hands before and after coming into contact with animals and wear a face mask while interacting with pets.
Testing and treatments for COVID-19
How can I get tested for COVID-19?
Currently, in the United States, you can only be tested for COVID-19 if you are showing signs and symptoms of infection (cough, fever, difficulty breathing) and if:
- You have been in close contact with someone who is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 and/or
- You live in or have traveled recently to a place where COVID-19 has been identified
Most US cities now have drive through testing sites available, that are available by calling the local hotline phone number and answering prescreening questions to determine if you are eligible for an appointment. Search online for your city name and coronavirus testing locations.
The test uses a nasal or oral swab (much like the flu test) to collect respiratory specimens. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released this test under Emergency Use Authorization. This means that although the test has not been officially approved by the FDA, it can still be used to diagnose COVID-19 cases in this time of emergency.
Can I take antibiotics for COVID-19?
Antibiotics do not work in treating an infection with COVID-19, just like they do not treat the flu virus. These drugs are only effective against bacterial infections, and COVID-19 and the flu are viral infections. Taking antibiotics when you do not have a bacterial infection can damage the helpful bacteria in your body, leading to bigger problems like a Clostridium difficile infection. Antibiotic resistance can also develop from taking unnecessary antibiotics, which makes treating other bacterial infections difficult later. If secondary infections, like pneumonia, develop as a result of COVID-19 infection, then antibiotics can be used.
Current antiviral drugs are available by prescription to prevent the flu viruses from multiplying once you are infected. They can also be used for preventing infection (prophylaxis) if someone has been exposed to or come in contact with someone who has the flu. Tamiflu is a prescription antiviral medication that can shorten the length of time someone is sick with the flu (4). This medication would not work for the novel coronavirus infections because it works by targeting a molecule specific to influenza A and B viruses.
There is currently no approved antiviral drug for COVID-19, but companies are working to develop an effective medication. Researchers are currently repurposing already discovered antiviral drugs in hopes of finding one that works specifically against COVID-19. One drug, Remdesivir, was originally developed to treat Ebola and was shown to be effective against the SARS and MERS coronaviruses as well when tested against the viruses in culture dishes. These qualities suggest that it may be an effective drug to use against COVID-19 (5).
Coronaviruses use RNA as their genetic material, as opposed to humans who use DNA. The drug Remdesivir works by inhibiting an enzyme that is specific only to RNA viruses, named RNA-dependent RNA polymerase. A man in Washington State who tested positive for COVID-19 received Remdesivir and recovered well. While his results are promising for the effectiveness of the antiviral medication, larger-scale clinical trials are needed to verify these findings (5).
Currently, two clinical trials are being conducted in China, one for patients with severe cases of COVID-19, and another for patients with mild to moderate symptoms. The results of the trials are set to be released in April. In the United States, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are setting up a multi-site clinical trial to test Remdesivir against a placebo. Up to 50 sites around the world are expected to be involved (5).
There are currently 74 registered clinical trials globally for novel coronavirus and its related symptoms. There are bound to be some additional drugs with promising results soon.
Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?
Currently, there is no vaccine available for COVID-19. However, scientists around the world are working quickly to develop an effective vaccine to combat spread and infection. Normally it takes 10 to 30 years for scientists to develop an effective vaccine. Obviously, we cannot wait that long. A company called Moderna started testing a potential vaccine in early March in Seattle in partnership with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Thy estimate that it will still take a year for a vaccine to be ready for the public. A company in North Florida called Ology Bioservices received a federal grant on March 23rd to rapidly manufacture Inovio Pharmaceuticals’ DNA virus vaccine IN-4800 for testing against the novel coronavirus.
What are steps I can take to protect myself?
Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched daily, including:
|· Doorknobs||· Handles|
|· Tables||· Light switches|
|· Countertops||· Keyboards|
|· Desks||· Phones|
|· Toilets||· Sinks and faucets|
To clean surfaces, use soap or detergent with water to wipe away dirt. Afterward, disinfect using any EPA-registered household disinfectant that is best suited for the surface of interest. Something with bleach is the safest way to go. A comprehensive list of products that are effective against COVID-19 can be found here.
If needed, other options for disinfectants include:
- Diluted household bleach (that has not expired)
- Mix 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) of bleach per gallon of water
- 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
- Alcohol solutions (greater than 70% alcohol)
Diet and Lifestyle
During pandemics like COVID-19, it is important to keep yourself as healthy as possible. Your immune system functions best when you stay hydrated and eat nutritious foods. Be sure to also thoroughly cook meat and eggs that you prepare to prevent any other sickness.
Stress negatively impacts your overall health and wellbeing, weakening your immune system. While high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are beneficial short-term, long-term exposure can become damaging. Stress also decreases your white blood cell count, making it difficult to fight off viral infections such as COVID-19 (6).
It is also important to protect you and your family at home and out in the community. Keep hand sanitizer at entrances to your living space to use as you go in and out. It is also a good idea to keep a travel-size bottle in your car to use after pumping gas, opening doors, etc. Encourage your family to limit physical contact with others – instead of shaking hands, use a fist or elbow bump.
When you go out into areas with many people, be mindful of what surfaces your hands are contacting. If possible, avoid opening doors with your hands, and instead use your hips or a closed fist. This is especially important for bathrooms and other commercial locations. When you are grocery shopping, carry hand sanitizer, or disposable latex or nitrile latex gloves to prevent spread on your hands.
Most of all, avoid touching your face as much as possible. We touch our faces close to 100 times a day, most of the time without realizing it. If you touched a surface in a public place, you want to make sure you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer before touching your face. Use the back of your hand or your knuckles if you have to touch your face while out in public. People have been wearing gloves out, which makes them less likely to touch their face with the gloves on. We are also seeing people in public with face masks on as this not only may prevent any airborne virus from infecting them (depending on the type of mask) but more importantly, it prevents them from touching their noses and mouths to possibly infect themselves. While you may not want to wear gloves and/or a face mask out all the time, it may be a consideration when going to busy places if you have a lowered immune system.
One way to naturally boost your immune system is by taking certain vitamin, mineral and herbal supplements. Here we have provided a comprehensive alphabetical list of natural approaches known to enhance your body’s defenses against the cold and flu viruses. These may also help guard against COVID-19.
A note about vitamin and mineral supplements
Immune system function has been shown to be supported by high doses of natural vitamins and minerals that are often deficient and depleted at times of infection. While vitamins and mineral boosting can be very beneficial to the body’s ability to fight viral infection, care should be taken not to take very high doses for more than a few weeks at a time. Some of these cannot be taken together, so read carefully rather than buying them all first. Also, for some of these dietary supplements, the prevention doses can be drastically increased if you are sick, but these doses are just for a short time till you are better.
The immune-boosting andrographis has been shown to be effective at reducing cold and flu symptoms. Specifically, it reduces the amount of mucus in the nose and is an effective treatment for upper respiratory tract infections when taken within three days of the onset of symptoms. Take 1 capsule containing 300 mg daily with food.
This is a unique natural blend of minerals, a B vitamin and plant antioxidants that are able to effectively boost the immune system. It has been around for 23 years and has many, many case reports of its effectiveness against cold and flu. It is safe and non-toxic. Take 1 capsule 4 times daily. Note: Coenzyme Q10, Selenium and large doses of vitamin C & E may decrease the effectiveness of this product. If sick, then take 1 capsule 6 times daily.
Carnivora is a powerful phytonutrient, extracted from the Venus flytrap plant, Dionaea muscipula. It has been studied and used for many years to support immune system function. Research has shown is has antimicrobial, antiviral and antibiotic properties, as well as having positive preventative results with cancers and cardiovascular problems. Take 3 capsules daily for 6 days, skipping the seventh day. After 5 weeks, stop taking it for a week. If sick, then take 20 drops 4 times daily for 6 days, skipping the seventh day.
Colloidal silver was commonly used as an immune booster in the early part of the 20th century and has recently been ‘rediscovered’. It works in the body by disabling the enzyme that bacteria need for their oxygen metabolism. They suffocate and die without any negative effects to the normal human oxygen metabolism. It is great for preventing or treating bacterial infections that arise from a cold or flu. Take 2 teaspoons (10 PPM) daily under the tongue for up to 10 days at a time. If sick, then take 2 teaspoons (10 PPM) daily under the tongue for up to 10 days at a time.
Additionally, silver nanoparticles have been shown in studies to inactivate viruses. Due to a lack of proven safety, these are not yet recommended.
This is an ingredient in green tea and made somewhat popular due to its ability to aid weight loss. Studies have shown that ECGC boosts the immune system and protects against many types of diseases. In addition, it prevents flu viruses and other types of viruses from taking hold in the body. Take 1 capsule (250 mg) twice daily.
Garlic has long been known to be a strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. Both fresh garlic and garlic oil capsules or tablets are effective. Taking 180 mg daily of garlic’s active ingredient allicin was shown to reduce rates of infection with cold viruses by half. With fresh garlic, each clove contains 4-14 mg of allicin once crushed, so it can take 12-45 cloves to get this preventative dose of garlic. Typical garlic oil capsules or tablets have this equivalent in one tablet or capsule.
Iodine has been shown in numerous studies to be antiviral against several types of influenza viruses. It is also antibacterial. Take 1 drop (600 mcg) in water each morning.
Oscillococcinum is a commonly-used, safe and powerful immune booster. Many studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing the duration of influenza infections and the severity of flu symptoms. In a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, 63% of patients taking Oscillococcinum showed a great reduction in symptoms after 48 hours. It also can be taken as a preventative, to help boost the immune system and reduce the risk of contracting the flu. Oscillococcinum is available over the counter at most pharmacies and supplement stores. Dissolve one tube of pellets in your mouth twice a week. If sick, then dissolve one tube of pellets in your mouth 3 times daily.
Quercetin is a plant antioxidant commonly found in citrus fruits. An animal study showed that it prevents the flu virus from multiplying. Take 1 capsule (500 mg) daily.
Resveratrol is a powerful phytonutrient that has received a lot of attention from the scientific community because it is a strong antioxidant. Most commonly found in the skins of red grapes and grape products, like red wine, resveratrol reduces the risk of getting heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s. Recent studies show that it is very effective in the treatment of influenza A viruses. It prevents the virus from taking hold, blocking the parts of the cell that the virus uses to reproduce. Take 1 capsule (250 mg) daily.
A healthy immune system relies on a critical balance of ‘beneficial’ bacteria in the gut. Probiotic supplements restore these beneficial bacteria, which often become diminished through sickness caused by harmful microbes, poor nutrition and antibiotic drugs. This restoration is critical for the body to fight viral infections and for general optimal health. Take 1 refrigerated capsule (1-10 billion CFUs) daily on an empty stomach. Always keep probiotic supplements in the fridge. If sick, then take 2 refrigerated capsules up to 3 times daily on an empty stomach.
Sambucol is an extract of the fruit of the elderberry shrub, Sambucus nigra. Elderberries have been used traditionally around the world to prevent and shorten the duration of influenza infections. It is thought that the three specific flavonoids found in black elderberries have potent anti-viral properties. Sambucol has been shown to be effective in fighting ten different cold and flu virus strains. In a double-blind placebo-controlled randomized study, Sambucol reduced the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days. Take 1 teaspoonful daily. If sick, then take 1 teaspoonful every 3 hours.
Selenium is a mineral well known for boosting the immune system. Studies have shown that in selenium-deficient animals, they get a more severe viral infection than the mice that have adequate selenium in their diets. Take 1 capsule (200 mcg) daily. If sick, then take 10 capsules (100,000 IU) 3 times daily for 7 to 10 days or until the infection is gone.
Vitamin A (Retinol NOT beta carotene)
Vitamin A has been shown to stop viruses from reproducing. It causes the immune system to make a molecule called interferon that blocks the replication of viruses. This works not just for cold and flu viruses, but any virus. Take 3 capsules (30,000 IU) daily. Note: Do NOT take if you are pregnant.
Vitamin C is a powerful immune booster and is water-soluble, which allows the body to cope with it in large amounts. Take 1 capsule (1,000 mg) 3 times daily. If sick, then take 1 capsule (1,000 mg) every hour while awake. Note: If your stools become loose, reduce your dose.
Studies show that adequate vitamin D can reduce the occurrence of colds and flu. That makes sense since cold and flu season coincides with winter when people get less sunshine and therefore have lower blood vitamin D levels. There is preliminary evidence that vitamin D at very high levels is effective against COVID. Take 10,000 IU daily for 3 weeks to rapidly raise vitamin D concentrations, followed by 5000 IU daily after that. If sick, don’t reduce the dose – keep taking the 10,000 IU daily. Also get as much direct sunshine on face, chest, arms and legs as possible daily, while staying away from people.
Vitamin E boosts the immune system and has been shown to decrease the amount of influenza virus in animals during an infection. Take 1 capsule (400 IU) daily.
Zinc is well known for boosting the immune system. Take 1 capsule (25 mg) daily.
Protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19, stay informed and stay calm. The spread of this virus may slow down with rising spring and soon summer temperatures, becoming seasonal much like the flu but we do not know that for sure yet. Ask us any questions you have below in the comments box. We are a team of doctorate-level biomedical scientists and MDs. We are also available to write articles for you, like this or completely different, depending on your audience and business. Contact us now to let us know how we can help you or your business.
Studies on the Recommended Supplements
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