Hunkering Down, Social Distancing, and Making Sense of the Coronavirus Pandemic
Are you doing okay? I am sorry I have not posted in a while. It has been, well, very crazy. I am sure you know what I mean and are feeling it deeply too. No matter where you are in the world, the Coronavirus pandemic has altered work, family, and life altogether significantly. It seems that no one is escaping it, and that we all need to hunker down to concentrate on staying safe and well by “flattening the curve” with social distancing. It still seems as if the best defense is avoidance of exposure.
Until today, I have resisted writing about COVID-19, because I feel that the last thing anyone needs right now is more unsolicited advice or harrowing statistics. It is such a loaded topic. I’ve witnessed relationships degrade over social media based on conspiracy theories or comments that downplay the seriousness of the virus. It makes me so sad. But, I have also fielded many emails and messages from folks checking in with me. Many people seem to be wondering what I am doing to weather this storm and to stay well. Thus, I felt compelled to finally put this post out there.
First, this post is not intended to scare or to get anyone down. As a matter of fact, it is purely me reaching out to all of you and to tell you that I am here and that I care. I actually care very deeply for all of you reading this, because I know that you are here at my blog first and foremost because of mold—cleaning mold, mold remediation, mold-triggered illness, environmental illness, mysterious symptoms possibly caused by mold, mold testing, finding a mold-literate doctor—whatever. And, while helping anyone suffering or struggling with mold issues or mold illness is my passion and the crux of my blog, today I am going to stray to specifically address Coronavirus or COVID-19 as it has been officially named. At this point, I feel that not addressing it is irresponsible on my part mainly because so many of us struggling with mold also have autoimmune issues or compromised immune systems. Thus, we are the part of the population that is seemingly more susceptible to severe illness if we do become infected with COVID-19. That is obviously a scary reality and is one that I too am facing right now.
Now, I am NOT a doctor or trained health care practitioner, so I am NOT here offering medical advice. The only things I want to offer you in this post are information and facts on COVID-19 that I have gathered from credible sources (whom I trust and will link to for further reading). I also intend to offer encouragement, hope, and resources that you can actively use at this scary and crazy time to help your mind, body, and soul thrive. I want to do this, because I found that in my darkest days of sickness, financial straits, and not having a place to call home during our mold nightmare that there were always “helpers” there for me if I just took the time to notice them. I steal the word “helpers” from Mr. Rogers—yes Mr. Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Fred Rogers famously described how he learned to explain tragic and scary things to children in the following quote:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”
So, I guess this post is just me doing my best to be your helper. I hope it brings you some clarity and comforts you.
What I Know About COVID-19
(Note: Please reference the CDC and WHO websites for more in-depth info and for references for all I report on below. If the information came from another source, I have linked to it directly wherever possible. Please, again, remember that I am NOT giving medical advice. I am not a doctor. Anything actions you take with regards to your health are your personal decision and should be discussed first with your own trusted medical authorities.)
Because I know how smart all of you are, and that you are interested in facts, I will very briefly share all I know and have learned during this time. I have also included links to recently published studies on the virus, where applicable.
First, Coronavirus is not the flu. Comparisons to the flu significantly downplay the virus’s contagiousness and seriousness. Doctors and scientists are now clearing that up, but in the beginning days of finding out about the virus and its spread, the comparison was rampant and frequent. The similarity lies in that Coronavirus is an RNA virus, like the flu, not a DNA virus like herpes or smallpox. RNA viruses tend to be more feared and virulent, because they are less stable and are prone to damage and mutations both in nature and in the lab.
Coronaviruses comprise many viruses, 7 of which are known to be able to cause disease in humans. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) from which COVID-19 comes is thought to have started in the animal population–likely bats, and then evolved to infect humans. When infectious disease scientists first became aware of the COVID-19 virus, it seemed to originate from workers in the seafood markets in Wuhan, China. Now, it is spreading actively from person-to-person, many of which have had no animal contact. (Note: This novel or new Coronavirus got its name COVID-19 from “Coronavirus disease” and the year 2019, because the first case was reported in Wuhan on December 13, 2019. On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global health emergency.)
History shows that most viruses of similar origin have a season like the flu, in which they come and go. It is postulated that, like with the flu, the warm, summer months may give temporary relief by slowing the viral spread. Immunity also seems to go up in warmer months as studies show that warmer temperatures enhance the immune response. For the novel Coronavirus, thus far, the cases have a 78% male predominance with 32% of those infected having underlying disease. The symptoms are with 98% of patients having fever, 76% having cough, and 44% reporting fatigue. All patients who progress to severe stages of the illness and pneumonia have had abnormal lung image findings. (Data source.) A more recent study also shows that diarrhea was a prominent symptom among up to half of patients with COVID-19 during the outbreak in Wuhan. Many of these patients with GI symptoms had no respiratory complaints, such as cough or shortness of breath.
Transmission of COVID-19
Based on current information, Coronavirus travels through the air in respiratory droplets and can fall on surfaces and still be infectious after 3 days. Some experts argue that it may still be infectious after 9 days. It’s ability to travel easily in air droplets seems to be why the virus is spread easily between those in close proximity to each other—families and co-workers. If this mode of spreading holds, the virus should be easy to contain with increased hygiene and cleaning measures and social distancing. That is precisely why handwashing, not touching one’s eyes, nose, mouth, or ears after being out and around others, and staying 3-6 feet from others is being advised at this time.
The only issue with this data is that some recently released findings indicate that some people without any symptoms have been able to transmit infection. One patient studied was found to be shedding the virus at what was calculated to be day 7 after presumed infection, even though that patient never reported or displayed symptoms. Additionally, up to 10% of recovered Coronavirus patients in a Wuhan study still tested positive for the virus, although there is no evidence that these patients were still contagious.
The CDC has developed a diagnostic test for the virus and has gained FDA approval for its use. It is a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRt-PCR) assay that can diagnose the virus from respiratory and blood serum samples. Testing is now much more readily and widely available for those with symptoms or who have been exposed. In my city, Memphis, TN, there are even drive-thru testing centers being set up, so that people can get tested easily in order to get earlier treatment and/or to better protect others and to stop the spread of the virus. There is also at-home testing that is currently being developed.
Known Symptoms of Coronavirus
There have been some conflicting articles regarding the symptoms of Coronavirus, but the most credible sources contend that those most indicative of the virus are fever, dry, non-productive cough, muscle aches and pains, and severe fatigue. Additionally, digestive issues, mainly the sudden onset of diarrhea, even in the absence of respiratory symptoms has been added to that list. From a clinical perspective, Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt has reported that Coronavirus patients, even in the early stages of the illness, have low white blood counts and lymphocyte counts in their complete blood counts. If you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms, especially with increasing severity, you are advised to immediately contact your healthcare provider, quarantine yourself (if you are not already), and await instructions on what to do and where to go next if symptoms persist or become more severe. At this point in time, you will likely be advised to visit a screening outpost where you can be safely tested for Coronavirus.
Treatment for COVID-19
Unfortunately no vaccine for coronavirus is currently available. There is a new phase 1 clinical trial underway in Seattle of an investigational RNA vaccine for COVID-19 that uses messenger RNA to help the immune system fight off the disease. There are additional trials going on in China and the US as well.
As of this post, there is happy evidence to suggest that the drug combination of Hydroxychloroquine or Chloroquine phosphate (an anti-malarial drug) and Azithromycin (an antibiotic) can cure infected patients. It was shown to eliminate the virus in 20 out of 20 patients treated in a clinical trial. There has been more invitro study that shows that Chloroquine Phosphate alone eliminates and inhibits the severity of the virus. More clinical trials are now being conducted in the United States to confirm these findings. Also invitro effectiveness of Nitazoxanide (Alinia)—a broad-spectrum antiparasitic and antiviral drug—has been shown for Coronavirus and seems to have helped some patients not progress into the latter stages of the illness. This drug was given due to its previous effectiveness with treating MERS-coronavirus. Finally, a Chinese hospital specializing in infectious disease found that treating Coronavirus patients with high-dose intravenous Vitamin C was effective in treating affected and infected patients. There is a compelling study detailing this treatment HERE. Additional information for all of these treatments can be found published on Dr. Klinghardt’s site HERE. (Note: Dr. Klinghardt and his staff have been tremendously generous in their time and efforts compiling information and speaking to other doctors on the front lines of the disease. I just want to acknowledge him for his endeavors to help others and to bring healing during this time.)
Prevention of COVID-19 Infection
Since there is no vaccine or established cure, as of yet, the most important mode of treatment is, of course, prevention. At this point in time the only real prevention is avoidance of exposure to the virus as much as possible. And, while I am certain that you have heard and read ad nauseum about all of the things you can do to stop the spread of the virus, I want to also take a moment and emphasize those things again here. I am doing this because the greatest threat we are facing is overwhelming our healthcare system with seriously sick patients. If we do not have enough healthy medical personnel, beds, ventilators, and life-saving medications and interventions for the very sick Coronavirus patients, we cannot prevail. Here are things you can do to keep yourself and your community safe:
- Wash your hands. Use soap and water and go to town. Even if you are staying home, make sure to wash your hands frequently, especially prior to eating and after using the restroom. You can use alcohol-based sanitizer in a pinch. My family uses HOCL or hypochlorous acid, as it is effective against viruses and bacteria, but does not have any toxic effects. There are many brands, but BRIOTECH is a good brand that you can also spray on your face and ears. I also like good old Puracyn.
- Avoid touching your eyes, ears, and mouth. This is how the virus gain entrance to the body.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes. This should go without saying, but it you sneeze or cough, do so into your elbow, arm, or a towel that you flush or throw away. The virus seems to be spread the most through droplets, so this is not only common courtesay, but imperative for everyone’s safety.
- Practice social distancing. Avoid crowds and contact with others outside of your immediate household. Community guidelines are changing by the minute when it comes to this, but, if possible, stay at home. You can go outside and be in open, outdoor spaces, but avoid anywhere you will be close to or in direct proximity to others that you are not currently living with. This is the ONLY true way to control community spread of the virus. My kids and I are sheltering in place right now. This means that we are at home—working, living, homeschooling, everything. My husband still leaves for work each day, but I only leave for groceries or necessities. So far, I have ordered and picked up what we need with little to no contact.
- Take special care of the air INSIDE of your home. My intention is not to turn this into a mold post, but I would not be responsible if I did not mention that your valunerability to viral pathogens is heightened when you are not breathing clean, mold-free air. I do not know of a direct relation between mold and Coronavirus. I have read a recent compelling article by Lisa Petrison, PhD, though, that is worth your time and consideration. I intend to write a follow-up post to this one on cleaning your home for health during this COVID-19 pandemic, but to keep this short and sweet, I suggest doing the following:
- Wipe down surfaces daily with antimicrobial cleanser. I make a spray of my EC3 Laundry Additive and distilled water. It contains tea tree oil in addition to the antifungal/antibacterial citrus extracts. I also use Pure & Clean HOCL surface cleaner. (HERE is an article about Coronovirus on surfaces.)
- Wash clothing and bedding with an antimicrobial/antifungal agent, like EC3 Laundry Additive.
- Take off your shoes BEFORE entering your home. This is a simple way to prevent the influx of pathogens.
- If you leave your home and are in a public place, remove your clothing in the garage or carport, if possible, and put it directly into the washing machine. Wash your hands and face thoroughly before touching anything or interacting with anyone in your home. If you have been working, I would also recommend you shower before putting on clean clothing or getting on any furniture.
- Mist rugs and carpets with EC3 Mold Spray and HEPA vacuum a few times a week. This will keep both the mold and bacterial load down indoors.
- Use HEPA air purifiers (I like IQ Air and Blue Air) in the rooms where you spend the majority of your time. Bedrooms are especially in need of air purification if your home does not have ideal air quality.
- If possible, use a fogger with a safe, non-toxic fogging agent, like EC3 to reduce the fungal, bacterial, and viral load of the air you are breathing. We are seeing foggers used more and more on airplanes and public transit to keep germs from spreading. If you can financially afford this tool, I think it is wonderful to have for sanitizing at home.
Immune System TLC and Fortification
As I have stated before, I am not a doctor. I have adopted an immune protocol for myself and my family during this time based on the recommendations of the doctors that I know and trust in both the environmental illness and functional medicine arenas. My husband is also continuing to have to go into work in a warehouse setting everyday. So, even though my children and I are home, he is potentially bringing exposures to us upon his return each day. Thus, we are taking more preventative measures than the average family. Here is what I am currently doing, if you are interested:
- We are obviously sticking to a whole-foods and low-sugar diet as much as possible. I have had to buy a lot of frozen meats and veggies, but am doing my best to cook healthy, well-rounded meals for me and my family. I am actually embracing this opportunity to get creative as far as variety goes. We are also staying hydrated with pure, clean spring water. Hydration is always important to help your body stay well and energized.
- We are laughing, playing, singing and enjoying the quiet and time together. This is as important, if not more important to your body and sanity than any supplements. Please take time for thankfulness and fun. You need and deserve it!
- 2,000 mg Vitamin C (liposomal and capsules) split into 2 doses daily. (I am also giving my children liposomal Vitamin C but am basing their dosages on their ages, sizes, and weights.)
- 500 mg Beta Max on an empty stomach in the morning – Beta Glucan has been shown to enhance immunity to viruses and pathogens.
- 9 sprays of Sinus Defense, 2 times per day. My children are using 3 sprays, 2 times per day. This spray is homeopathic and contains Transfer Factor for viral and environmental antigens to build innate immunity and resilience. I just don’t want our bodies having to work extra hard to control inflammation and fend off other invaders right now.
- If we have any nasal symptoms, we spray our noses about 2 times per day with CitriDrops Nasal Spray.
- For any throat tickles or soreness, we gargle with a Xylitol and CitriDrops Dietary Supplement gargle (2 oz. spring water, 4 drops CitriDrops, large pinch Xylitol—stir until dissolved). Put the mixture in your mouth and gargle in the back of your throat for about a minute. We spit ours out. This helps soothe a dry itchy throat and helps to protect against viral invaders.
- We are all taking Melatonin. I am also using a transdermal Melatonin cream to up my dosage to twice per day. My advice is, if you decide to try this, stay in rooms with sunshine and avoid blue light. Otherwise, you may find it difficult to stay awake. (Note: Melatonin has been found to inhibit the action of an inflammasome known as NLRP3 – one of the primary inflammasomes involved in the exaggerated immune response seen in critical Coronavirus cases.)
- We are all on a high-quality probiotic. Gut health, as you know, is important to your immune system health and to your body’s continued ability to fight illness, infection, and disease. With all of the stress we are facing right now and our increasing inability to access fresh foods, making sure to keep the “good guys” in our tummies flourishing is important. I use both ION by Dr. Zach Bush (more of a prebiotic and gut fortifier) and OrthoBiotic. I also like VSL #3 sachets, but they can be pricey.
- We are exercising daily outdoors whenever possible. Exercise is wonderful medicine. I cannot stress this enough. It is immune-system building, body strengthening, and mood lifting. You must consciously move in the days ahead. Somedays we go for fresh air walks. Other days, we bring yoga mats into the backyard, or do HIIT circuits. Yesterday, we went for a long bike ride. Last week, we were forced to run on the treadmill inside and do push-ups and crunches on my bedroom rug. Whatever your circumstance or weather, there is a way to create movement. I encourage you to do what you can right now.
- We are turning “OFF” the WiFi and tuning “IN” to each other. This social distancing may be inconvenient, and it may be difficult, even downright boring at times, but there is enough literature and evidence out there for me to now acknowledge that having WiFi streaming through our home constantly is probably not the best thing for our continued health and healing. The spread of disease with the increased electrification of the earth is a controversial subject. I don’t intend to go there in this post. HERE is an article by Dr. Thomas Cowan that tackles topic. In our home, I unplug the WiFi in the morning after the kids print out and gather all of their assignments from their teachers. Then, we sit down together, crank through the school work and assignments, and turn it back on to submit their work and email teachers. Afterwards, it is off until I have to get back on for work. At night, we unplug it to sleep. We are sort of a dead zone where I live–no 5G yet. But it is coming, I am sure. I want to make bigger changes to make our home safer, but at this time, I am just attempting to limit exposure as much as possible.
The Bottom Line With COVID-19 or ANY Viral Pandemic
Now that we know that the virus is spreading through our communities from person to person, prevention of further infection is our best strategy. This effort requires avoidance of exposure with social distancing and focused personal efforts to maintain our bodies and homes for optimal health and heightened immunity. The beauty and power of this strategy is that it works to support our body’s systems if we do happen to get infected. When your body is able to fight infection, it helps community immunity go up over time. For now, I am doing my part and taking this seriously. With the tremendous world-wide response we have seen thus far, I am optimistic that we will prevail and will continue to band together to find a vaccine and a cure to bring an end to the fear and suffering.