Monday, March 23, 2020

COVID-19 part 1

     This post may be a bit of a departure from my normal style, but I figured that unusual times call for unusual postings. With all the questions that have been coming my way, and all the people who have been asking my advice, I decided to gather together a good bit of my research and thoughts here. I apologize as this may be a bit long-winded. With that in mind, I’ve broken things up into two separate posts. This post will cover what this Coronavirus is and the symptoms. My next post will be about prevention and some possible herbal support. If you want to skip forward, you can do that here.

What is COVID-19?

     Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock, or on another planet, everyone is aware that we are in the middle of a Global Pandemic. Most of us know, by now, that COVID-19 originated in China. Most of us are also aware that it is a virus that jumped from animal to human. There is a similarity between COVID-19 and two other virus strains found in animals, a 96% similarity between a virus from a horseshoe bat sample collected in Yunnan, and 90% similarity to a virus carried by pangolins. From this little bit of information, we can assume that it likely jumped to humans from bats, though it’s possible that it came from pangolins. Also, we know that a traditional soup found in China is made from bats, and that some viruses in the past have made the jump to humans via unsafe consumption of an infected animal (the SARS outbreak of 2002-2004 for example). Thus do I sadly admit that my favorite animal most likely was the culprit.

     According to the CDC, 15%-20% of people with COVID-19 develop a severe infection and require hospitalization. The CDC has done some number crunching and has estimated that between 2.4 million to 21 million people in the United States could require hospitalization. Most people will recover, with adequate medical treatment. However, a greater problem is that there are only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds, and less than 100,000 ICU beds, about half of which are already being used. The U.S. has 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. That’s fewer than in Italy (3.2), China (4.3) and South Korea (12.3), all of which have had problems keeping up with the surge in hospitalizations from this pandemic.

     One of the scariest things about this virus is that infected people are most often asymptomatic for up to 14 days. However this is when the virus is most easily spread. Those who don’t know that they are infected are spreading COVID-19 to, at least, 2 other people before they develop symptoms. This can increase cases of infection exponentially, unless we limit contact with others. The other, super scary, thing about this virus is that it is slippery. The term ‘slippery’ is given to viruses who mutate quickly. Believe it or not, the CDC and WHO monitor diseases relatively well. Especially those that are likely to jump from animal to human, because those are the ones we are less likely to have a natural immunity to. When one of these is identified, they pay extra attention to it and keep track of when it does make those jumps. Usually it takes years and years of jumping from animal to human before the disease then jumps from human to human. COVID-19 took about 2 weeks.

     Who’s at risk? We all are at risk for infection, however most people will recover without any permanent damage. The people more likely to not be in that majority are the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, and those with chronic illness (diabetes, heart conditions, etc). Also, people who have weak lungs (asthmatics, smokers, etc) are at a higher risk for complications.

     I have heard this virus referred to as a “lung eater.” And while that’s not 100% accurate, it is a pretty good description. Deaths from COVID-19 typically stem from pneumonia. Most pneumonia is bacterial in origin and can be treated with antibiotics. This one, however, is viral. Antibiotics do not necessarily work on viral pneumonia. But how does it develop into pneumonia? The virus enters in through the airways. A microscopic view of the virus reveals spikes all around the cell walls. These spikes attach to the cilia found in the lungs and respiratory tract. The cilia usually work to keep the airways clear of mucus and dirt, allowing us to breathe easily and without irritation. COVID-19 attaches to the cilia and infects them. Causing them to become inflamed. This in turn irritates the nerves in the lining of the airway. They become so inflamed that just a speck of dust can stimulate a cough. If the infection goes past just the lining of the airway and goes to the gas exchange units, which are at the end of the air passages, it triggers another inflammatory response and our lungs begin pouring out inflammatory material into the air sacs that are at the bottom of our lungs. If this continues, it’ll cause those air sacs to become inflamed which then causes the lungs to fill up with inflammatory material which then becomes pneumonia. Another way that COVID-19 pneumonia is different from other pneumonia is that it tends to affect all the lungs, where the majority of pneumonia cases only affect parts of the lungs at a time.

     COVID-19 patients are often described as having flu-like symptoms. However, the symptoms are slightly different from the typical cold, flu, and/or allergy symptoms one might come across this time of year. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, a dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, sputum production (thick mucus in the lungs), muscle or joint pain, sore throat, headache, chills, nausea or vomiting. How can you distinguish COVID-19 symptoms from the others? The cold and flu do not usually include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Allergies do not typically come with a fever.

     If you are coming down with a respiratory illness, remember that it isn’t necessarily COVID-19. There are plenty of other bugs around, particularly this time of year. If you do contract COVID-19, your symptoms will likely remain quite mild. Don’t panic and try to avoid heading to the emergency room unless your symptoms become severe. Feel free to call your health care practitioner of choice and ask them for advice.

     There is a silver lining. The majority of patients are recovering without any permanent damage to their lungs. Treatments are becoming more and more effective each and every day. And medical research is coming closer to a vaccine. There is also talk of other treatments. I know some European countries have been using a pneumonia vaccine on COVID-19 patients, helping to mitigate the worst of the effects. Some countries have been using remedies that worked on SARS, a related virus, and are having some measure of success with those. The most exciting news, however, comes from France where a malaria medication (chloroquine phosphate) had an 80% success rate in curing COVID-19 in a small trial. There has been a few negative issues regarding this treatment, predominantly with those who are using it to self medicate, without the supervision of trained medical personnel. However, it shows that this virus can be beat.

     Living in Florida, I have had the good fortune of not seeing a large number of people getting sick. However, our governor has taken amazing precautions. Florida is both a high-risk state and one that is not likely to fall victim to a huge outbreak. Humidity helps to slow the spread of COVID-19, and even though it is the dry season, and we’ve had even less rain than normal, we are known for being one of the more humid states. However, the vast majority of our population is over the age of 60 and at high risk. Social distancing, curfews, and bar closures should help reduce the chances that people will be infected which will help our hospitals stay on top of the spread of this virus.

     This is where I will pause, my next post will be on prevention and herbal support. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them down below. Follow me on Facebook (Bat Lady Herbals) and Instagram (BatLadyHerbalist) for updates on my adventures in Nature. Find me on YouTube and check out my videos! I also have a few things up on Teespring, check it out! Also, if you like what I do and what to see more, Become a Patron!


Coronavirus Alternative Treatments, Can Traditional Chinese Herbs and Treatments Help?: Medicine Net:

COVID-19, One Herbalist’s Thoughts on the Coronapocylapse: Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine:

COVID-19, 5 Reasons to be Cautiously Hopeful: Medical News Today:

List of Personal Things You Can Do To Stay Well in a Time of COVID 19: Rupa Marya, MD:

Pantry Medicine for When The Plague is Upon Us: Wonder Botanica:

Traditional Chinese Medicine & COVID-19:WVTF Virginia’s Public Radio:

The World Health Organization Backs Call to Avoid Ibuprofen for Coronavirus: The Jerusalem Post:

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     Welcome to Bat Lady Herbals.  I have been fascinated by herbs and various herbal uses for quite a few years now.  Plants are amazing t...