By Dr. Janet Brill

As a health professional, it is my job to sift through the conflicting and FALSE information inundating us and clarify the science-based facts on what we presently know about COVID-19:

  1. What is the coronavirus?

    The novel coronavirus or the SARS-CoV-2 virus is an extremely infectious virus that is easily transmitted among humans. Novel means it is new to humans, so we have no immunity.

    The SARS-CoV-2 virus causes COVID-19, a potentially lethal disease. The virus, unlike the 1918 Spanish flu virus, affects more than just the lungs. It has the potential to damage your heart, brain and the circulatory system in addition to the lungs.

    There is a lot we do not understand yet about the virus. We do not know the long-term effects. We do know that some people, the “long haulers,” have debilitating side effects that persist even after the virus is no longer detectable in their bodies.

    As of October 27, 2020, there has been at least 8,740,824 cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 226,211 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. These totals include cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories.

  2. Is it going away?

    No, in fact, there is currently a major surge in infections. Health professionals predict that there will be a huge escalation in cases, hospitalizations and ultimately deaths this winter. We are definitely in the midst of that second (or possibly third) wave.

    The pandemic will go away, when a safe and effective vaccine is created, and the majority of the country gets vaccinated. This will achieve community protection which robs the virus of the chance to spread easily. It occurs when enough people become immune, either because they’ve recovered from the infection or been vaccinated against it. (Albeit, alarming news today that reinfection is entirely possible and antibody level drops dramatically after infection which may mean that multiple doses of the vaccine will be required).

    If this perfect scenario pans out (safe and effective vaccine plus at least 60 percent get vaccinated) means that the virus will not have any more hosts and will die out. This will only occur if enough people get vaccinated.

  3. Why is testing a good thing?

    Testing enables health professionals to get a sense of the percentage of the population in a certain area that is currently infected or the “positivity rate.”

    If the positivity rate is high, say 20%, that tells us that the disease is spreading in a certain locale. We need to take active control measures to prevent further spread and a horrific situation like we had in April, in New York City, where the hospitals were overwhelmed.

    A higher percent positive suggests higher transmission and that there are likely more people with coronavirus in the community who haven’t been tested yet. When cases rise, an increase in hospitalizations follows then, sadly, an increase in deaths.

  4. How do you get it?

    The main way humans get infected is through the air, where the virus is inhaled through droplets or aerosols. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets or tiny particles called aerosols (like smoke) carry the virus into the air that exits from their nose or mouth.

    Anyone who is within 6 feet of that person can breathe the virus into their lungs. The most common way the disease is spread is through family interaction. For example, a child attends school and acquires a SARS-CoV-2 infection but is asymptomatic. He or she then comes home and transmits the virus to their household members.

  5. What’s the best way to NOT get sick?

    The virus is in the air and is caught by close contact with an infected human who speaks, coughs, yells, sings or possibly just breathes. Currently, the best way to not get sick or sicken others is to wear a mask, both indoors and even outside if in close contact with another potentially infected human.

    Colder weather means more time inside in less ventilated areas. Indoor ventilation helps disperse the virus, so closed windows in cold weather increases the viral concentration in the air.

    Do not go inside unless you and the other humans inside are masked up! Better yet, stay within your select group of people (your pod) that you know are not infected and only then can you be mask free.

    Wash your hands, with soap and water often, especially after touching your mask.

  6. Are there lifesaving treatments available?

    There is no magic cure. Currently, the Walter Reed protocol (used to treat President Trump) included:

    • Regeneron monoclonal antibody therapy – currently not available to the public.
    • Remdesivir – used under emergency authorization but questionable efficacy.
    • Dexamethasone—a steroid used only in certain Covid cases, widely available and inexpensive.
    • Supplemental oxygen – available in hospital.
    • Famotidine – an OTC medication commonly known as Pepcid.
    • Melatonin – an OTC supplement.
    • Zinc – an OTC supplement.
    • Vitamin D – an OTC supplement.
    • Aspirin.
  7. What can I take to prevent COVID-19?

    The best defense against coronavirus is to not breathe the virus into your body – WEAR A MASK, wash your hands! Eat a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet (filled with natural immune boosting foods – see my post Boosting your Immune System in the Time of Corona, exercise to relieve stress and consider taking the following supplements:

    • Vitamin D3 – only if you have been tested and your doctor has told you your status is low. Take 2000 IU D3 every day.
    • Probiotic – take a daily probiotic supplement which contains at least these three bacteria: Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium, B. bifidum.
    • Melatonin – take 1 to 3 mg before bed.
    • Zinc – dissolve a few zinc lozenges in the back of your throat every day.

Stay safe, stay healthy and we will get through this together. Wear a mask!

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