PLEASE NOTE: This advice is for people who are reasonably healthy and have not been diagnosed with coronavirus 2019-nCoV. IF YOU EXPERIENCE SYMPTOMS, CONSULT A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL IMMEDIATELY.
It is a relatively newly discovered respiratory virus found in the nose, throat and lungs, believed to have originated from Wuhan, a city of 11 million inhabitants, in Hubei Province, China. At the time of writing it has been identified as 2019-nCoV (2019 novel Coronavirus)
The main symptoms are fever, coughing and difficulty with breathing, but similar to influenza viruses early symptoms may include chills, body aches, sore throat, headache, diarrhoea, nausea and a runny nose.
At the moment, this is still unclear, but, roughly, each infected person may infect two more. Unfortunately, these figures are clouded by the fact that a person may be infectious without having any symptoms. However, medical opinion is that transmission is likely to be in the incubation period which is usually within 2-3 days of contact with an infected person, but may be up to 14 days after contact.
The most risky contact is considered to be close, such as a 15 minute face-to-face conversation, or 2 hours in a confined space such as an aircraft or other public transport and repeated, for instance living with or caring for a family member, working in close proximity to colleagues, and affectionate embraces between friends. It may be spread by droplets in coughs or sneezes, droplets which settle one metre away, unlike an airborne virus which can travel further distances.
Essentially those whose immune systems are not strong. This includes young children whose immune systems are still developing, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, for instance, it has been found in someone without the viral symptoms but with diagnosed pneumonia.
However, it is an opportunistic infection and it may affect others.
As with many viral infections, good management during the viral stage is essential to reduce progression into serious, life-threatening bacterial complications such as pneumonia.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) advise:
Other things you can do include avoiding eating or drinking things you know you may be sensitive to, for instance if you know that dairy makes you feel bloated, or tomatoes make you cough, or if you return positive results from any type of sensitivity or allergy testing, give those things a miss. If you tested positive to anything, this means that that food item or drink is challenging your immune system, and if you suspect you may have been exposed to 2019-nCoV you will want your immune system to be working well to protect you.
Also, (refined) sugar needs to be mentioned, as research shows that as little as 1 tsp or 5g of sugar can deplete your immune system for 4 hours afterwards! Remember to look for hidden sugars in sauces & baked goods.
There are herbs and supplements that are very helpful for supporting the immune system. I am a keen advocate for the use of medicinal mushrooms, particularly Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes), largely due to their beta glucan content which boosts immune cell activity.
Large doses of vitamin C, intravenous is the most effective, for which you will need to see your doctor or your naturopath . Otherwise, orally, either liposomal Vit C or a good powder; one needs to be aware that too much vitamin C can cause loose stools in some people.
Vitamin A can be very helpful as well for the immune system and for mucous membranes, and vitamin D is a well-known immune support, and is most effective when taken orally as a spray.
Enzymes such as bromelain and bioflavonoids such as quercetin that break down mucous accumulation and congestion and that help manage the immune response to inflammation can be of benefit.
N Acetyl Cysteine is an antioxidant, it assists the body with glutathione production, and can be useful for acute respiratory infections. It is generally available as a powder.
Zinc plays an important role in our immune function and is easily depleted by modern living, by exposure to chemicals and heavy metals and some pharmaceutical medications, and by stress. If the body does not have enough zinc, the immune system may not work efficiently.
Zinc is available in our diet, especially in red meat, egg yolks, liver and seafood, so many vegans may be deficient in this mineral. Its most effective oral dosing is also as a liquid.
Selenium is another mineral which is important in immune function, as well as thyroid balance, and it is well known that New Zealand soils are low in selenium. Brazil nuts are often eaten as a way of bringing up selenium levels nutritionally, but many people are happier to take it as a supplement in the form of drops.
Care must be taken with selenium, as too much can result in toxicity, so it is a good idea to check your supplements and add together any selenium content to make sure that it does not exceed the safety range (200-800 mcg/ day).
Herbal medicine can be very effective when used appropriately.
Immunity-supporting herbs such as echinacea are well-known as a first response to viral infections, but this action may be enhanced by using other herbs in a combined formula, such as St John’s Wort, which is strongly antiviral, pau d’arco, andrographis, elderberry, thyme and licorice.
As some of these herbs may have interactions with some prescription medications or some pre-existing health conditions, please be sure to consult your health professional before using them.
If you live or work in an area with a lot of exposure between people, you may need to take specific steps in addition to the above. You may receive specific recommendations from health authorities. In addition, you may want to have a comprehensive immunity boosting plan recommended by a natural health professional.
At Holden HealthCare, this would include diet, lifestyle, supplement and herbal recommendations based on your particular circumstances.
In light of recent awareness about viral attack, the month of February is promoted as Immunity Aware Month; please quote this article to claim your 12.5% discount applied to any naturopathic consultations booked this month.
Marion Stobie, MSc (Herbal Medicine), Dip Herb Med, Dip Naturopathy, is a senior Naturopath and Medical Herbalist at Holden HealthCare.