Throughout the month of February, we've been learning about viruses - in particular, the flu. We've discussed ways to support our immune systems to lessen our chances of catching the flu and natural therapies we can use in addition to medical intervention to soothe symptoms if we do catch it. Today's blog was originally scheduled to review specific actions we can take to help prevent contracting and/or spreading viruses; however, with all the news about the most recent Coronavirus, I decided to include information about it first, and then move on to those actions.
The information I'm including here about Coronavirus comes directly from the CDC website. I'll be honest, I've questioned all the hype about this virus based on what I knew before, and after digging deeper, I still am not overly concerned about it. To explain why, I'll define what the known Coronaviruses are, how they act on our bodies (symptoms), how they spread, how they compare to colds and flu, existing tests for it, and preventative steps we can take.
First, What is a common Human Coronavirus?
Put simply, like Rhinovirus, it's the common cold.
Think about this. Have you ever gone to school or work when you had a cold? For most of us, the answer is "Yes". The infecting virus may have been Rhinovirus or Coronavirus.
There are four common Human Coronaviruses (HCoVs) that can be found all over the world and which are prevalent during the colder months - the months when colds and flu abound. Symptoms are usually mild with congestion, cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat, malaise, and fever. In other words, like Rhinovirus, Coronaviruses are responsible for causing the common cold. Occasionally HCoVs, can lead to bronchitis or pneumonia (just like influenza viruses can). It's when the lungs are so severely affected that we see grave illness and death.
Second, How do HCoVs spread?
They spread just like the Rhinovirus and the Influenza virus.
They spread through sneezing, coughing, close contact with an infected person, touching a surface with virus particles then eating or touching your eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands. In fact, most of us have had at least one of these HCoVs at some point in our lives!
There's no vaccine or cure. You treat it as you treat Rhinovirus or influenza - by managing your symptoms, and hopefully, staying home. Your doctor may or may not run a sputum test to see what virus you have.
To give you an idea of the numbers: In the US, over three years, from July, 2014 through June, 2017, 854,575 HCoV tests were run. A total of 39,588 were positive for one of the four HCoVs. That's 4.6%.
In addition to the four common Human Coronaviruses, there are three other varieties: MERS-CoV - Middle East Respiratory Syndrome;
SARS-CoV - severe acute respiratory syndrome (not seen since 2004);
and SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 - the newest, and current, Coronavirus which is causing so much concern. (BTW, the 19 refers to the year it started infecting humans.)
So, what makes COVID-19 different?
Well, it spreads the same way other viruses spread. Symptoms range from mild to severe, include coughing, shortness of breath, and fever, and develop from two to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. There is a test for this virus, but it's only available in specific laboratories, not in local doctor's offices or hospitals.
The difference is that this virus is a new mutation that's jumped to humans, which means that humans haven't yet developed an immune response to it. When SARS first broke out, it spread relatively quickly to 20 countries, and, in the end, had approximately a 7% mortality rate. While numbers on the news may make it look like this new Coronavirus has about a 2% fatality rate, there are too many factors and unknown facts that we need to, but can't, take into account yet to determine the percentage. This is why virologists are concerned - there are too many unknowns. We don't know how accurate or inaccurate the numbers coming out of China are. We don't actually know the origins of the virus -- whether or not it did jump from another species to humans. We do know that it spreads quickly, and it's entirely possible that it will simply become a fifth common HCoV cold virus. Again, think about how fast a cold spreads - that's what this virus is doing. One country whose numbers can be trusted, Italy, had as of Monday, 229 cases with 6 deaths and 27 in intensive care. That's consistent with a 2% fatality rate.
Based on what I've learned, my takeaway from all of this is that we should use prudence. I don't see a need to panic. This is a virus, like the common cold or the flu. Some people will get mildly sick from it, while others become gravely ill and develop bronchitis and/or pneumonia. It's these secondary infections that can become deadly. Using common-sense prevention and medical intervention when needed is the best way to keep yourself and your family safe.
If you've been reading this month's blogs, you already know some good herbs and essential oils that will support and balance your immune system so you'll be more resistant to viruses - including this newest one. Now, let's look at some common-sense steps you can take to help prevent you from catching these bugs.
CRAWDS = Cover, Rest, Avoid the face, Wash, Diet, Stay home
Cover = Cover your mouth and nose completely when you cough or sneeze. Your hand isn't thorough enough. Your sleeve at the elbow is better. The best way is to cough or sneeze into your shirt. Just pull the collar of the shirt up over the top of your nose. (Yes, it might be uncomfortable if it's a snotty sneeze, but it keeps most of the virus particles contained.)
Rest = Take time to get enough sleep and enough 'down' time. Sleep allows your body to recover from the strains and stresses of the day. Personal relaxation time helps your body refresh and reboot itself as much as getting enough sleep does.
Avoid the face = The average person touches his/her face hundreds of times per day. All that touching brings lots of germs to the eyes, nose, and mouth where they enter the body. Try to be aware of how much you touch your own face, and work to reduce it.
Wash = Wash your hands - especially before eating. Washing properly with soap and water has been proven to be more effective at removing germs than using sanitizer (though sanitizer is better than nothing if soap isn't available). To wash properly, you need to take about 20 seconds of lathering and rinsing. Along with washing hands, if you get a cut, be sure to wash it with soap and water
Diet = Eating a healthy diet keeps your body strong and in balance which helps you resist illness. Adding anti-viral herbs to your diet can also help. i.e. fresh ginger is a hemagglutinin inhibitor and can be added to drinks like water, coffee, even soda. Elder and ginger are neuraminidase inhibitors. Star Anise is a great source of Shikimic Acid (which is used to make Tamiflu). Making and drinking teas with these herbs at the first sign of illness may help as well.
Stay Home = If you do get sick, stay home. This is perhaps the most difficult step for many. Often, work demands you be there or suffer consequences, so it's easier to just go in to work or send your child to school when (s)he doesn't feel right but there's no fever yet. Every parent, myself included, has faced these dilemmas, and sometimes, the school insists the child attend (especially on state exam days) even if the child is sick. By the time you get symptoms, you are already contagious. Once you're coughing and sneezing, you're spreading hundreds (at least) of virus particles through the air. Anyone nearby is then breathing in those viruses in a quantity that is likely to overwhelm their immune system - and so the virus spreads.
Finally, if you do get sick and your symptoms are moving towards the severe side, make sure you get medical attention as soon as possible.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How It Spreads, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 17, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Symptoms, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 15, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Testing, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 15, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Situation Summary, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 23, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus: Common Human Coronaviruses, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 13, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus: Human Coronavirus Types, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 15, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Coronavirus: Resources and References, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: August 6, 2019, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 18, 2020, Accessed Feb. 24, 2020,
9. Killerby, Marie, E, et. al, Human coronavirus circulation in the United States 2014 - 2017, ScienceDirect, Journal of Clinical Virology, Vol. 101, April 2018, pp. 52 - 56, Accessed Feb 24, 2020, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1386653218300325
10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza (Flu), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: February 21, 2020, Accessed Feb. 25, 2020,
11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS): Basics Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Page last reviewed: December 6, 2017, Accessed Feb. 25, 2020,
12. Chappell, Bill, Where Coronavirus Is Now Causing Concern: Iran, Italy, South Korea, npr, February 24, 2020, Accessed February 25, 2020, https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2020/02/24/808893094/coronavirus-has-pandemic-potential-but-isn-t-there-yet-who-says
The information contained in this blog is for educational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.