As COVID-19 has reached pandemic status with almost 4 million confirmed cases in the United States alone, scientists are globally racing to better understand and predict how the virus works, and how we can forge a solution to best protect communities.
Researchers have marked how the virus spreads (from tiny, respiratory droplets), how long it survives on surfaces, how long it takes for symptoms to appear, and how social distancing can limit the spread. But the virus’s origins and treatment remain a mystery, as does a complete understanding of what makes the virus so infectious.
While misinformation has been equally contagious, it’s more important than ever to make individual choices based on credible scientific research. Here are four questions for which scientists have new answers to help you make informed decisions to protect yourself, your family, and your community.
Fast facts: COVID-19 in the United States
● Data suggest that more men than women are dying of Coronavirus Disease 2019.
● Adults over the age of 60 and people with severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease and diabetes seem to be at higher risk of severe complications.
● The symptoms of COVID-19 appear much like the flu, with the exception of a loss of taste or smell and an extended period of remaining infectious.
1. Where did the new coronavirus originate?
The National Health Commission in China informed the World Health Organization on January 11, 2020, that the new coronavirus outbreak was linked with exposure to one seafood market in Wuhan in December 2019 (*).
COVID-19, like SARS, MERS, AIDS, and Ebola, is a zoonotic disease—which means it jumped from another species to human hosts. Although genomic evidence suggests that the closest currently known virus is naturally found in bats, (the virus’s closest relative is a bat virus that shares 96% of its enome), researchers are unsure if an intermediate species exists. It is believed that it might have umped from bats to pangolins, a potential intermediate host whose presence on the black market as a delicacy, may have caused exposure to humans. (*)
2. How does the virus make people sick?
The virus’s protein spikes attach to a protein on the surface of cells. When the coronavirus binds to it, a chemical change fuses the membranes around the cell and the virus. This bonding allows the virus’s RNA to enter the cell, and, in a matter of hours, recalibrate to produce tens of thousands of new single virus particles. (*)
These new particles, in turn, infect other healthy cells. The virus also hijacks the host cell from signaling the immune system, while encouraging the host cell to release the newly created particles. (*)
Similar to most viral infections, rising body temperature is one innate measure to kill the virus. The body’s white blood cells work to destroy infected cells, while others create antibodies or chemicals to combat the virus. But immune systems vary from person to person. In fact, many symptoms associated with COVID-19 are caused by the patient’s immune system, not the virus itself. (*)
Infection is a competition between the virus and your immune system. But scientists have found that the new coronavirus is similar to SARS with an infectious dose that may be just hundreds of particles. And the severity of inhalation versus ingestion may make the difference between an infectious dosage and mild exposure. (*)
3. How can you protect yourself and stop the spread?
A single virus particle is a sphere of protein protecting a ball of RNA, the virus’s genetic code. It’s covered by spiky protrusions, which are then coated in a layer of fat (the reason soap effectively destroys the virus).
Though further research is necessary to prove the efficacy of natural compounds, experts in functional medicine are pointing to the preventative benefits from the following supplements:
● Quercetin (shown to have antiviral effects against both RNA and DNA viruses)
● Vitamin D (an immune system modulator that increases anti-pathogen peptides)
● Vitamin C (supports cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune system)
● Zinc (shown to suppress viral attachment and replication) (*)
The CDC recommendations also include the following environmental actions to prevent spread:
● Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Dry them thoroughly with an air dryer or clean towel. If soap isn’t available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
● Stay home if you’re sick.
● Avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth. Use a tissue to cover a cough or sneeze, then dispose of it in the trash.
● Use a household wipe or spray to disinfect doorknobs, lights switches, desks, keyboards, sinks, toilets, cell phones, and other objects and frequently touched surfaces.
● Plan visits with friends and family outdoors, if possible. If you must visit them indoors, make sure the space can accommodate social distancing, and open doors and windows to ensure ventilation.
● If you are going out in public, bring a cloth face covering to wear over the nose and mouth. Avoid people who are not wearing cloth face coverings.
The CDC has encouraged event organizers and staff members to wear face coverings if distancing is difficult, particularly where people might raise their voices (shouting, chanting, singing). This is also true for people visiting high-traffic spaces like banks, restaurants, gyms, nail salons, and libraries. (*)
4. What are the different tests, and how effective are they?
There are now two primary types of tests for coronavirus: diagnostic tests (molecular and antigen) and antibody tests (serological). Diagnostic tests detect active infection, whereas antibody tests check if you’ve had a previous infection with the virus. (*)
One type of diagnostic test, the molecular test—the infamous 6-inch long swab shoved into the back of the nasal passage for 15 seconds—is considered the elite diagnostic test for COVID-19. Genetic material from the virus is detectable in upper and lower respiratory specimens and can be compared to the genetic sequence of the virus you’re trying to detect. (*)
The antigen test is the newest diagnostic test for COVID-19 (only two companies are currently authorized by the FDA to distribute these tests). Like molecular testing, a nasal or throat swab is used to detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus. Although false-negative results are more common, antigen tests are useful due to their speed and accurate positive results. (*)
If you want to determine whether you were infected and have since recovered, serological or antibody tests use a finger-prick blood sample to detect antibodies. These are proteins your body makes when responding against invading germs. The presence of specific antibodies may indicate recent exposure to COVID-19 or later-stage infection. However, since it can take several days to weeks for the body to develop an antibody response, serological tests may not be useful in identifying a current infection alone. (*)
If you’re searching for reliable information and effective natural treatment, you’re not alone.
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