In the previous blog, I talked about five facts (as I see them) about COVID-19 (the variant of SARS or SARS-CoV-2). The two biggest “facts” of the five that I have previously mentioned about this virus are:
- Its ability to infect and the speed of spread (which appears to exponential rather than geometric). The regular Influenza A flu transmission is more geometric i.e., the spread is one person to another (an Ro of 1). This SARS variant called COVID-19 appears to have an Ro of about 3 – which means one person can infect three others who, in turn, can infect three others. The progression, therefore, would be 1 to 3 to 9 to 27 to 81 to 243 and so on.
- If my number crunching is correct, the overall mortality rate for COVID-19 will turn out to be about the same as the seasonal influenza A flu – with the those over 65 years of age, elderly, the immune-compromised and those with co-existing conditions like diabetes accounting for 90% or more of the deaths. Although the total number of deaths will probably be about the same as the regular flu, its rapid spread means that the number of deaths will be compressed into a far shorter period of time – which is why our medical system is being overwhelmed by the number of hospitalizations.
COVID-19 is treatable and is being treated. We have been told by the heads of our North American countries that the threat of COVID-19 will not be over until there is a vaccine available. Vaccines fall under the umbrella of “prevention” rather than treatment.
A researcher friend of mine brought the “EVMS Critical Care Covid-19 Management Protocol” to my attention. This protocol was developed and updated by Dr. Paul Marik, MD, Chief of Pulmonary and Critical care Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA on March 31st, 2020. As Dr. Marik says,
“This is our recommended approach to COVID-19 based on the best (and most recent) available literature including the Shanghai Management Guideline for COVID.”
As I read this protocol, the interesting fact for me, as a Naturopathic Doctor is the author’s emphasis that we should be using a multi-dimensional approach to improve the outcome of COVID-19, rather than relying on the possibility that there will be drug “magic bullet” to cure COVID-19. When I looked at the protocol, from the medical perspective, they do mention chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine (the anti-malarial drugs) as potentially being able to decrease the duration of viral spreading – especially in the elderly.
What I found most heartening, however, is the emphasis on improving the immune system function. For example, Dr. Marik mentions that zinc is part of the protocol because it has been shown that zinc inhibits the enzyme necessary for viruses to replicate. Co-incidentally, chloroquine and hydroxycholoquine are “potent ionophores that “increase intracellular Zinc concentrations”. It is possible, then, that the drugs work by increasing the concentration of zinc inside the cell where the zinc acts to prevent the virus from replicating. Two questions immediately come to mind: 1) Can increasing zinc-containing foods and/or increase your zinc levels through supplementation do the same thing as the drugs? 2) are the elderly who have the severe presentation of the disease zinc deficient?
In the previous blog, I mentioned that – according to a recent study in Iceland – 50% of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic. To my knowledge, they didn’t break this number down by age group. Therefore, I am also assuming that there are individuals over 65 who have been exposed to the virus and are asymptomatic. This means that they have been exposed to the virus and the immune system has done its job, reacted, and now they are immune, or they have been exposed and the symptoms/disease have not yet developed (if they ever do). In other words, not all elderly people who are exposed to the coronavirus will become severely sick and need hospitalization or will die, for that matter.
This also brings up the question….what are the differences between the young and the elderly, the individual who has been exposed and never develops symptoms, and the elderly individuals who develop mild disease versus developing severe disease? The obvious answer is the state of the individual’s immune system as the time of exposure. Not one of the medical experts on the news that I have seen, and certainly not the politicians and their entourages, has ever stated publicly that it might be a good idea for the elderly or the population in general to consider ways to boost their immune systems.
So what are some of the factors affecting the immune system and the expression of the disease –
According to the EVMS Report:
- One obvious factor is the existence of co-morbidities (like hypertension, diabetes, cancer) and the use of therapeutic drugs e.g., ACES and ARBS for hypertension that do not exist, for the most part, in individuals who are less than 40. This is a very important point because the very drugs that have specific actions and can potentially prolong life also create side-effects and/or deficiencies that can affect immune system functioning. For example, there have been reports (as yet unproven), that taking ibuprofen may be detrimental if you have severe COVID-19 disease.
- Another factor is the lack of sleep. As we get older the amount of sleep (and restorative sleep) that we get diminishes. This is probably due to a drop in melatonin. We all know melatonin as a sleep aid. According to the EVMS report, however, “melatonin levels plummet after age 40”, and, “very recent data suggests that, in addition to being a potent anti-oxidant, melatonin may have direct antiviral effects against COVID-19.”
- Much of the population, especially the elderly, have sub-optimal vitamin D levels, especially in winter. Vitamin D supplementation should be considered in the elderly, since “low vitamin D levels have been shown to increase the risk of developing viral upper respiratory tract infections.”
- Ascorbic acid or Vitamin C has proven properties (anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, immune-enhancing, antiviral). In particular, IVAA (intravenous ascorbic acid) has been implemented in Chinese hospitals as part of the treatment for COVID-19. Not many elderly individuals get enough vitamin C in their diets. The results so far indicate “in the IVAA treated group, there was no mortality, no reported side-effects, and shorter hospital stays universally” [by 3-5 days]. In some way, IVAA appears to have the ability to mitigate potential death by “cytokine storm” and ARDS (advanced respiratory distress syndrome).
- Quercetin is a one of the bioflavinoids that often accompanies vitamin C; Early clinical evidence suggests that quercetin has broad antiviral properties – acting at various steps in the virus’ lifecycle and inhibits heat shock proteins which are “required for viral assembly”. Taking bioflavinoids and/or quercetin may be able to act preventively for viruses, in general, and Covid-19, in particular. The same idea holds that the elderly either don’t get enough bioflavinoids in their diet or perhaps have less ability to absorb them.
Besides the general dictum of: eat better (more fruits and vegetables), exercise more and get better sleep, the following supplements, according to the EVMS Medical Group may be of benefit (please see url: evms.edu/covidcare for more details):
- Vitamin C;
- Bioflavionoids and/or Quercetin;
- Vitamin D;
Other Possibilities not mentioned in the report might include:
- Amino acids and/or their derivatives e.g., N.A.C (N-Acetyl-Cysteine and L-Lysine;
- Olive Leaf Extract/Echinacea;
- Plant sterols;
- Medicinal Mushrooms e.g. turkey-tail;
- Vitamin A;
This being said, please do not consume any of the vitamins, minerals, herbs or supplements listed herein unless you are being monitored by the health care practitioner of your choice – especially if you are taking drugs for a co-existing medical condition. Do your research and ask the professionals.
Until next time…