Coronavirus: What is it? How can we protect ourselves? * A naturopathic perspective *

handwashing-germs-coronavirus-covid19-bellingham-naturopath

By Dr. Kelsi Ervin, ND

Northwestern Clinic of Naturopathic Medicine & Watershine Hydrotherapy
Bellingham, WA

gold star of prevention ervin bellingham northwestern clinic of naturopathic medicine
gold star of prevention ervin bellingham northwestern clinic of naturopathic medicine
gold star of prevention ervin bellingham northwestern clinic of naturopathic medicine
gold star of prevention ervin bellingham northwestern clinic of naturopathic medicine

Ensure you have four gold star prevention

This article was updated 3/11, but has been consistent in overall message from the beginning.
Prevention measures are important for containment of this virus.

 Whatcom County's COVID-19 preparedness page.

How is coronavirus different from the flu?

Symptoms of coronavirus and flu sneak up on us. We are most likely to pass a virus to one another early on in an infection… often we are passing on the infected ‘respiratory droplets’ before we have registered that we’re truly sick. We may have no symtpoms or only have a runny nose, sneeziness or a cough when we are at our most infectious. The people who are exposed can then be infecting others within 4 days. This is why these viruses can so easily infiltrate communities.

"Only a month after the outbreak of pneumonia [caused by COVID-19, the current coronavirus in the media] 40,000 people were infected."   Lessons learned from the 2019-nCoV epidemic on prevention of future infectious diseases.

The flu, often called the “seasonal flu” can feel terrible. This coronavirus can be worse… or at least it can get deeper into the body and at this point the scientific community isn’t sure if there will be a seasonality to the outbreak. This coronavirus is more likely than the flu virus to progress to pneumonia- specifically lower lung infection, which can be difficult to treat. Pneumonia can take lives and fill hospitals. These are the burdens overwhelming communities worldwide with this current coronavirus outbreak.

We are seeing that people of all ages are at risk of getting severely ill. Obesity, smoking, lung issues, and advanced age are all issues that increase peoples risk of getting severely ill. We don't know why children are not having symtpoms even when they have COVID-19.

Another hallmark of coronavirus is that while not all viruses cause a fever, we likely progress to fever with coronavirus. (Fever is certainly not a sure-fire bet for coronavirus diagnosis, learn more about fever in our next blog… Curious if tylenol or ibuprofen use is safe for fevers? Sign up to get NCNM clinic updates here).

"Everyone wants to be tested. There is no need for that. If you are symptomatic, stay home."

- personal message from friend in upper-management in Seattle hospital where the outbreak has been reported as she works closely with the CDC   3/3/2020.

The coronavirus is not new to our world. But the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a little different than the coronavirus representation we’ve dealt with in the past. The scientific community is rushing to better understand this virus enough to stop its spread and the pharmaceutical industry is working to create vaccines (likely none of which will be on the market within a year).

These days when someone with weakened lungs gets pneumonia, we can prescribe antibiotics and they work to beat down the infection enough to allow our immune systems to recover. But, antibiotics are not the answer for viruses like COVID-19.

Currently the COVID-19 is not mutating…. Meaning COVID-19 is one virus that is multiplying and finding many bodies inside of which they can grow their little cloned virus family (2Mar2020 article by Trevor Bedford implies there are mutations).   The flu virus is very different. The CDC reports that there are 1200 different influenza viruses circulating in the United States, accounting for more than 15 million cases of flu since the start of the 2019-2020 flu season.

If COVID-19 follows the trends of SARS, another coronavirus that caused a real scare- transmission will drop with time, but for now transmission is on rise in Washington state. Once enough of us have had the illness, we will build up a community-wide immunity because enough of us will stop passing on COVID-19 because our bodies have already learned to fight it. 

 

What are the chances I’ll be exposed to Coronavirus in Bellingham?

Authorities suspect we have likely had COVID-19 in our community since Jan 2020. We really do not know, because testing has been limited. We anticipate continued spread of the virus. It is strongly recommended that our communities focus on prevention and containment of all illness starting now (written 3/3/2020; update 3/11/2020, entire community is continuing to promote containment strategy). Well people with colds need to stay home and take the time to get better so that the burden of viruses being passed around is lessened. Staying home to decrease spread of illness is not a fear strategy, but these are tried and true prevention strategies. 

Coronavirus and other viruses are spread human-to-human through the moisture rich air we share. Internationally,  the vectors (routes of transmission person to person… the answer to how was that person exposed?) are not always clear. Keep your own ills at home and get better.

Evergreen hospital, the center of the local outbreak, and King County public health officials are practicing strict containment strategy. The CDC is on site at Evergreen, watching the hospitals  incredible measures of sanitation to protection of workers and decrease the spread to the vulnerable. To stay updated on the reports in Washington state, you can visit the CDC webpage dedicated to this illness. Contact your naturopathic doctor if you have traveled to areas with outbreaks or if you have weakened lungs that need some rehabilitation.

Link to Whatcom County's COVID-19 preparedness page.

Should I be afraid of the Coronavirus?

A naturopathic view

If you haven’t built your understanding of staying strong and healthy with your naturopathic doctor, now is the time. With the growing number of cases worldwide, we anticipate the strong-bodied individuals will recover from the illness. People with chronic illness, especially breathing-related concerns like asthma or smoking, need to learn all the ways to protect themselves.

Fear puts us in a vulnerable emotional state and weakens our system, doesn’t it? Mindfulness practice teaches us to recognize when we are feeling fearful and catch ourselves in actions that are motivated by fear. Call yourself out on your own fear. Name it. Instead of being fearful or tracking the fear-inducing media reports, focus on self care and care for one another.  (Join us in qigong if you’d like whole-body mindfulness training! Sign up here for notifications of upcoming classes or sign up here for our drop-in class on Friday at noon).

This article offers the guiding steps you need to keep yourself and your family protected.

How Can I Protect Myself? 

A naturopathic approach

Get your 4 gold stars of prevention:

Keep yourself healthy. It is our elders and children who need the most support. People with a history of lung disease like asthma, chronic bronchitis, and smoking should get support. If you are frequently ill and sleepless, or  working with children or elderly, take this opportunity to tune up your system. We need a healthy body to have a strong immune system. Naturopathic doctors specialize in prevention of disease and creating health in the body. Work with your naturopathic doctor to get your microbiome, sleep, and diet optimized. Schedule today. 

Keep your hands clean.

Wash your hands with soap and water. Keep your hands (your fingernails!) out of your mouth and away from your face. Teach this way to children. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are useful, but hand washing is far more effective.

Keep surfaces clean, naturopathic-style: Surfaces should be washed with soap and water. More practically, they can be sprayed down. Homemade formulas are effective in inactivating viruses and bacteria. Vinegar (5% acetic acid) or malt vinegar (4-8% acetic acid diluted to 10%) are both effective.  Do 1 part vinegar, 1 part rubbing alcohol (everclear-type alcohol 100% alcohol is far stronger), and a touch of dish soap.  It's the essential oils that we have the best research for being anti-viral. Add 10 drops of essential oil.  Spray on surface and let it sit for 60 seconds before wiping it down.  Essential oils that are popular and strong are thyme, lemon, rose, or lavender. Rosemary, Eucalyptus, and cinnamon are antimicrobial. Bleach and ammonia based cleaners are harmful for our lungs (Clorox and Lysol) and are NOT recommended because they make us more vulnerable to lung infections. Please share with your loved ones the importance of healthy indoor air, check out a comprehensive guide to green cleaning from the EPA here. 

Bleach and ammonia based cleaners are harmful for our lungs (Clorox and Lysol) and are NOT recommended because they make us more vulnerable to lung infections. Please share with your loved ones the importance of healthy indoor air, check out a comprehensive guide to green cleaning from the EPA here. 

  Decrease the sharing of your illness with these important tips: 

  • Careful sneeze! Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow. Teach this way to children.
  • Keep hands & surfaces clean (see above tips).

  • Masks- it’s difficult to keep masks clean, so they are not particularly helpful. But, if you are sick and going into public places- wear a mask to keep your own respiratory droplets to yourself. Providers and technicians in places of known exposure are wearing ventilators, which are really the only masks that help.
  • Stay home - (recommend by public health authorities) If you're feeling ill, this is the time to stay home. Containment of illness has been one of the most important lessons learned in outbreaks.

Link to Whatcom County's COVID-19 preparedness page.

Natural medicines are the way to go!

Conventional (pharmaceutical) medicines are not well-suited for addressing viruses or for recovering healthy immune function. Once again, readers are encouraged to check in with your naturopathic doctor so you can stay healthy. Schedule here. 

Hyperthermia: Fever induction is a natural way to keep the immune system primed and strong. Stay tuned for our naturopathic approach to fever blog series to continue learning naturopathic techniques for promoting health. (follow NCNM_House on instagram).

Herbals and natural medicines for immune support - Think prevention

Come pick up your natural medicine prevention supplies today. Keep yourself well. Take vitamin D, a tried and true aid in an anti-viral plan. Keep up with your dosing (take at least 2000 IU daily). Use elderberry plus or solid extract to keep you well.  Your naturopathic doctor can help you design a plan that is effective and works for you. Log into your portal to schedule with or check in with your doctor. 

NCNM hosts a trusted local dispensary for all your local medicine needs. Please stop in.  If you’re non-local and buying elderberry online, the best choice will be Dr. Appleseed’s Extract. There is simply nothing on the market with this extract’s potency, purity, and hand-crafted care.

Remember the H1N1 virus scare? Science showed us with H1N1 studies that elderberry is a powerful anti-viral. The benefits of elderberry also include healthy circulation and anti-bacterial impact. Also, elderberry is one of the most potent antioxidants we know.

Vitamin C is another easy-to-take nutrient that helps improve our healing time and protect our bodies.  We strongly recommend adding in vitamin C if you become symptomatic. Also, add in Turmeric. We carry liquid and pill form of turmeric that are can assure you are well-absorbed and worth taking.

There is more we recommend for anyone with asthma, our elders, and anyone with symptoms. We are offering quick phone consults for $30 right now to anyone in need.

Is COVID-19 a big deal?

Right now keeping the outbreak to a minimum is a big deal so we can protect the vulnerable. The aftermath of viral infection can be complicated.

COVID-19 is a big deal. Coronavirus holds a place in a powerful group of viral monsters out there including HIV, dengue, rabies, and CMV (and other herpes viruses)... because of the damaging impact these viruses can have on the human nervous system. There are many other viruses out there and none of them are known to be terribly friendly to humans or animals. Research studies associate countless diseases with viral onslaught at their origin, and coronavirus is one of the viruses with a powerful punch. Coronaviruses can enter the brain through the olfactory (sniff, sniff) nerve, for instance.

Coronaviruses are associated with neurodegenerative diseases including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Coronaviruses are known to be neuroinvasive.

Is the U.S. medical system ready for COVID-19?

As mentioned above, the U.S. is keeping its eye on Washington state and Seattle. The CDC is trusting us to create a plan of action that works to contain the virus. Please stay home if you are ill. Keep the total load of illness down in our communities.

We can look to China's strategy of community cooperation and tracking, but we don't have the same systems in place. As of yet, we have not had the testing strategies set in place to appropriately track the movement of COVID-19.   The CDC is keeping their website updated for us to receive reports. Bellingham hospitals, schools, and clinics like NCNM are creating action plans.

As mentioned, Evergreen hospital is practicing very strict sanitation and containment in hopes of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Link to Whatcom County's COVID-19 preparedness page.

As this article comes to an end, it should be acknowledged that our system of medicine in the US is broken. We are a country full of brilliant people and cutting edge science, but our systems of medical delivery and the conditions under which our providers are giving care keep us treating disease rather than keeping our people well.

This is yet another invitation to individuals to find a trusted naturopathic doctor to work with now so that you can find support in establishing your healthy future. As antibiotics continue to work less well, we need a different approach to healthcare. Schedule with our providers at NCNM today. 

If you are feeling ill...

If you find yourself feverish and uncomfortable, we are offering quick phone consults for $30 for anyone in need.

Call us today at 360-734-9500 or schedule an appointment with an NCNM naturopathic doctor here.

Use the vitamin D and vitamin C. Add in turmeric with our curcum-evail or turmero.

Call the office to get supplements sent to you!

Health and medicine is more complicated than one-size-fits-all when we talk about how to protect ourselves or investigate the causes of disease. This is why the standard American approach to medicine is failing.

Find support in ensuring your health. We have options, even within our current system, for individualized medicine. The key foundation of the naturopathic model is establishing the conditions for health. Individuals need perspective and support in establishing health. A history of unaddressed trauma might leave a human more susceptible to a certain virus. The same treatment that may resolve symptoms for one person might aggravate the symptoms in another person. Lab studies might not catch an infection that is the cause for symptoms. The art of diagnosis and treatment is alive and well in America. Find providers who have risen above the broken system and are able to take the time to create a healing relationship with people in need. If you're local to Bellingham, come and visit us at NCNM. 

Or, if you're outside Bellingham, find a naturopathic doctor in your area here. We help build strong healthy communities.

Article by Dr. Kelsi Ervin, ND.

Additional sources:

Desforges, Marc & Favreau, Dominique & Brison, Elodie & Desjardins, Jessica & Meessen-Pinard, Mathieu & Jacomy, Hélène & Talbot, Pierre. (2013). Human coronavirus: respiratory pathogens revisited as infectious neuroinvasive, neurotropic, and neurovirulent agents. 

Greatorex, Jane S et al. “Effectiveness of common household cleaning agents in reducing the viability of human influenza A/H1N1.” PloS one vol. 5,2 e8987. 1 Feb. 2010, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008987

https://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/sites/default/files/media/coronavirus.mp3

Krawitz, Christian et al. “Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 11 16. 25 Feb. 2011, doi:10.1186/1472-6882-11-16

Nawrat, Allie. Coronavirus outbreak: the story so far. Pharmaceutical technology 27 Feb 2020. 

Pan X, Ojcius DM, Gao T, Li Z, Pan C, Pan C. Lessons learned from the 2019-nCoV epidemic on prevention of future infectious diseases [published online ahead of print, 2020 Feb 20]. Microbes Infect. 2020;S1286-4579(20)30032-0. doi:10.1016/j.micinf.2020.02.004

Photo of Human coronavirus: respiratory pathogens revisited as infectious neuroinvasive, neurotropic, and neurovirulent agents - Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Overview-of-the-coronaviruses-electron-microscopic-appearance-a-bar-100-nm-and_fig1_243457712 [accessed 28 Feb, 2020]

Pubmed countless articles on disinfectants.

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8 thoughts on “Coronavirus: What is it? How can we protect ourselves? * A naturopathic perspective *”

  1. Jody Hartline

    Dr. Kelsi,
    Thank you for this timely article. It helps to see, in writing, a way forward with this quickly and easily spreading virus.
    My husband Butch and I were patients of yours in Bellingham about 5 years ago and have fond memories of how helpful and conscious your care was.
    Stay Well and we wish you all the best.
    Jody and Butch Hartline

  2. Dr. Kelsey,
    So good to hear your wise comments on the virus. Annie sent this along. Sounds like you are doing well,
    Joanne R and Mr, Mr

    1. Yes! We believe our patient population who is taking good care of themselves will not be heavy hit with this virus. Thanks for your comment! Self care is the ticket for health!

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