The second wave of COVID-19 already started. Now we have to take more precautions. At CPP under Corporate Responsibility, we are doing awareness programs and health camps across rural India. As part of the awareness program, we are posting COVID-19 educational articles via our blog and Social Media also we are distributing educational booklets physical copies through NGOs.
Covid: Why is coronavirus such a threat?
A simple virus has brought life as we know it to a screeching halt.
We have faced viral threats before, including pandemics, yet the world does not shut down for every new infection or flu season.
So what is it about this coronavirus? What are the quirks of its biology that pose a unique threat to our bodies and our lives?
Master of deception
In the early stages of an infection, the virus is able to deceive the body.
Coronavirus can be running rampant in our lungs and airways and yet our immune system thinks everything is a-ok.
"This virus is brilliant, it allows you to have a viral factory in your nose and feel completely well," says Prof Paul Lehner from the University of Cambridge.
Our body's cells start releasing chemicals - called interferons - once they are being hijacked by a virus and this is a warning signal to the rest of the body and the immune system.
But the coronavirus has an "amazing capability" of switching off this chemical warning, Prof Lehner says, "it does it so well you don't even know you're ill".
He says when you look at infected cells in the laboratory you cannot tell they have been infected and yet tests show they are "screaming with the virus" and this is just one of the "joker cards" the virus can play.
It behaves like a 'hit and runs' killer
The amount of virus in our body begins to peak the day before we begin to get sick.
But it takes at least a week before Covid progresses to the point where people need hospital treatment.
"This is a really brilliant evolutionary tactic - you don't go to bed, you go out and have a good time," says Prof Lehner.
So the virus is like a dangerous driver fleeing the scene - the virus has moved on to the next victim long before we either recover or die.
In stark terms, "the virus doesn't care" if you die, says Prof Lehner, "this is a hit and runs virus".
This is a massive contrast with the original Sars-coronavirus, back in 2002. It was most infectious days after people became ill, so they were easy to isolate.
It's new, so our bodies are unprepared
Remember the last pandemic? In 2009 there were huge fears about H1N1, aka swine flu.
However, it turned out to be no way near as deadly as anticipated because older people already had some protection. The new strain was similar enough to some that had been encountered in the past.
There are four other human coronaviruses, which cause common cold symptoms.
Prof Tracy Hussell from the University of Manchester said: "This is a new one, so we don't think there's much prior immunity there."
The newness of Sars-CoV-2, to give it the official name, she says, can be "quite a shock to your immune system".
This lack of prior protection is comparable to when Europeans took smallpox with them to the New World, with deadly consequences.
Building an immune defense from scratch is a real problem for older people, as their immune system is slow off the mark.
Learning to fight a new infection involves a lot of trial and error from the immune system.
But in older age we produce a less diverse pool of T-cells - a core component of the immune system - so it is harder to find ones that can defend against Coronavirus.
It does peculiar and unexpected things to the body
Covid starts off as lung disease (even there it does strange and unusual things) and can affect the whole body.
Prof Mauro Giacca, from King's College London, says many aspects of Covid are "unique" to the disease, indeed "it is different from any other common viral disease".
He says the virus does more than simply kill lung cells, it corrupts them too. Cells have been seen fusing together into massive and malfunctioning cells - called syncytia - that seem to stick around.
And Prof Giacca says you can have "complete regeneration" of the lungs after severe flu, but "this does not happen" with Covid.
"It is quite a peculiar infection," he said.
Blood clotting also goes strangely awry in Covid, with stories of doctors unable to get a line into a patient because it is immediately blocked with clotted blood.
Clotting chemicals in the blood are "200%, 300%, 400% higher" than normal in some Covid patients, says Prof Beverly Hunt from King's College London.
She told Inside Health: "Quite honestly, in a very long career, I've never seen any group of patients with such sticky blood."
These whole-body effects could be due to the cellular doorway the virus strolls through to infect our cells - called the ACE2 receptor. It is found throughout the body including in blood vessels, the liver, and kidneys, as well as the lungs.
The virus can cause runaway inflammation in some patients, making the immune system go into overdrive, with damaging consequences for the rest of the body.
And we're fatter than we should be
Covid is worse if you are obese, as a generous waistline increases the risk of needing intensive care, or death.
This is unusual.
"It's a very strong association with obesity is something we haven't seen with other viral infections. With other lung injuries, obese people often do better rather than worse," said Prof Sir Stephen O'Rahilly, from the University of Cambridge.
"It looks pretty specific [to Covid] it probably happens in pandemic flu, but not regular flu."
Fat deposited throughout the body, in organs like the liver, causes a metabolic disturbance that seems to combine badly with coronavirus.
Obese patients are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation in the body and proteins that can lead to clotting.
-James Gallagher, BBC Health and science correspondent
Indian Gov: https://www.mygov.in/covid-19/
How to Care for Your Face Mask
It’s a good idea to have at least two. This way, you will have a fresh mask if one is in the wash.
Consider your schedule and your lifestyle. Ideally, you’re staying at home most of the time. But you will want a clean mask whenever you go someplace where maintaining consistent physical distancing (at least 6 feet away from others) might be a challenge, including:
- A trip to the grocery store.
- A ride on public transportation.
- A visit to your doctor.
- Close interactions with others while you’re on the job if you are an essential employee.
When is it safe to take my mask off?
Keep your mask on until you have finished your trip, errand, or work shift. You can remove it outside, once you are away from others, or in your car on your way home. Don’t forget to bring your mask inside to be cleaned. If you wait to take your mask off until you have returned home, it may be easier to put it directly into the laundry.
What’s the best way to take off (doff) a face mask?
- Wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Don’t touch the front of the mask or your face.
- Carefully remove your mask by grasping the ear loops or untying the ties. For masks with a pair of ties, unfasten the bottom ones first, then the top ones.
- If your mask has filters, remove them and throw them away. Fold the mask and put it directly into the laundry or into a disposable or washable bag for laundering.
- Clean your hands again.
FOLLOW THESE GUIDELINES TO PROPERLY WEAR YOUR FACE MASK
Wash your hands before and after touching the mask.
Touch only the bands or ties when putting on and taking off your mask.
Make sure the mask fits to cover your nose, mouth, and chin. If you adjust the mask to cover those areas, wash your hands before and after.
Make sure you can breathe and talk comfortably through your mask.
Wash reusable masks after each use. If the mask is disposable, discard it when visibly soiled or damaged.
TO PROTECT YOURSELF AND OTHERS, AVOID THESE COMMON MASK-WEARING MISTAKES
We do not recommend wearing bandanas, gaiters, masks with exhalation valves or clear shield-like face masks* as face coverings.
Don’t touch your or your child’s mask while it is being worn.
Don’t wear the mask under your chin with your nose and mouth exposed.
Don’t leave your nose or mouth uncovered.
Don’t remove the mask while around others in public.
Don’t share your mask with family members or friends.
-----------Tips Guided by Lisa Lockerd Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H.-----------
BOOSTING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM AGAINST CORONAVIRUS: HOW TO MINIMIZE THE RISK OF INFECTION?
Covid – 19 or Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. And while the countries are grappling with imminent dangers that this virus poses to humanity, there are few key measures that individuals can take to fight this pandemic.
While it is crucial to mention hygiene standards like washing your hands frequently, especially if you have traveled by public transport. Using an alcohol sanitizer, in case you are traveling to disinfect your hands, wearing a mask (cover your nose and mouth), and avoiding touching your hand or mouth. There are also certain methods to improve your immunity which is paramount at this juncture.
Individuals with certain pre-existing illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory issues are at a higher risk of having Covid 19 complications, it also aggravates with age as the general immunity reduces as you get older. In the younger generation with no underlying illnesses, Covid 19 can result in a minor infection, provided you have a robust immunity and do not engage in activities like smoking or vaping to combat the onslaught of the virus. Here is a list of measures you can undertake to improve your immunity.
Improve Your Diet
The food you eat plays a key aspect in determining your overall health and immunity. Eat low-carb diets, as this will help control high blood sugar and pressure. A low-carb diet will help slow down diabetes and focus on a protein-rich diet to keep you in good shape. And regularly consume vegetables and fruits rich in Beta carotene, Ascorbic acid & other essential vitamins. Certain foods like mushrooms, tomato, bell pepper, and green vegetables like broccoli, spinach are also good options to build resilience in the body against infections.
You can also eat supplements rich in omega 3 & 6 fatty acids for your daily dose if stepping out to buy groceries is not an option during social distancing. Some natural immunity supplements include ginger, gooseberries (amla), and turmeric. Some of these superfoods are common ingredients in Indian dishes and snacks. There are several herbs that help in boosting immunity like garlic, Basel leaves, and Black cumin. Certain seeds and nuts like sunflower seeds, Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and melon seeds are excellent sources of protein and vitamin E.
Probiotics like Yoghurt, Yakult, and fermented food are also excellent sources to rejuvenate the composition of gut bacteria, which is important for nutrient absorption by the body. These are good options for the older generation too.
Don’t Compromise on Sleep
Good snooze time for 7-8 hours is the best way to help your body build immunity; lesser sleep will leave you tired and impair your brain activity. The lack of sleep will prevent the body from resting and this will impair other bodily functions that will have a direct impact on your immunity. Lack of sleep adversely affects the action of the flu vaccine.
Drink up to 8-10 glasses of water every day, to stay hydrated. Hydration will help flush out the toxins from the body and lower the chances of flu. Other alternatives include juices made of citrus fruits and coconut water, to beat the heat.
Don’t Skip on Exercise
A good diet should be followed by an exercise routine. Remember to exercise regularly; even light exercise will go a long way in releasing toxins from your body. It is recommended to exercise for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on your stamina. If you have not started exercising yet, then it is a good time to start. There are several Youtube channels and apps to help you exercise at home. Regular exercise improves metabolism, which has a direct correlation with body immunity.
These are testing times, and a prolonged period of staying indoors has implications for your mental wellbeing. The growing anxiety around the pandemic is another concern that is affecting millions across the globe. While the uncertainty might be overwhelming, there are few steps we can follow regularly to help relieve our stress, stress is known to have an adverse effect on immunity.
- Practice meditation
- Too much stress releases the hormone known as cortisol, which impairs your response to immediate surroundings and makes your body susceptible to infections; you are left feeling constantly anxious. The best way to relieve stress is through meditation, it is a tried and tested activity to calm the nerves. If you need help meditating, then there are several channels on youtube that have instructional resources to help you meditate.
- Avoid Smoking, alcohol, and other addictive substances
- Certain habits like smoking, vaping, alcohol consumption, and substance abuse have a direct correlation between weakened body defenses and respiratory illnesses. Engaging in smoking and vaping is proven to weaken your lung capacity and destroy the cells lining your respiratory tracts, these cells are crucial to fight viruses that enter through your nasal orifices. There is new research claiming that individuals who engage in heavy alcohol consumption tend to suffer from ARDS (Acute Respiratory distress syndrome) which is one of the conditions caused by Covid 19 infection. Practice moderation, if you are dependent on any of these, as sudden withdrawal can also prove to be risky.
- Avoid all kinds of non-essential travel. Most Covid 19 positive cases are imported cases, which later spread to the communities. Avoid being exposed to the public transport system and public places to avoid any likelihood of exposure. In case you have to travel, make sure to cover your nose and mouth with a mask and carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, at all times. Remember to sanitize each time you touch a surface, as Covid 19 strain can stay on surfaces for a few hours to days. Use your non-dominant hand while accessing the doorknobs and handles, as these are frequently touched by many people.
Supplements and immunity-boosting foods
While all the above-mentioned tips will definitely help, the need of the hour is a quick boost to your immunity system to keep it fighting fit. If you’re concerned about whether you are getting the right amount of nutrients from your diet, consult with your doctor about a supplementation regimen to boost your immune system. Here are a few common supplements and superfoods that can help.
This particular vitamin is a crucial participant in the army of immunity. It helps prevent the common cold. It acts as a powerful antioxidant and protects against damage induced by oxidative stress. For severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), high-dose intravenous vitamin C treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in patients.
Vitamin D supplements have a mild protective effect against respiratory tract infections. Most people are deficient in Vitamin D, so it’s best to consult with a doctor about taking a Vitamin D supplement to boost immune response.
Zinc is a vital component of WBC (white blood corpuscles) which fights infections. Zinc deficiency often makes one more susceptible to flu, cold, and other viral infections. It is advisable to take a zinc supplement, especially for older people.
Elderberries are full of nutrients including minerals like phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, and vitamins, such as vitamin A, B, and C, proteins, and dietary fiber. Elderberries have antibacterial and antiviral qualities which help fight cold and influenza.
Turmeric and Garlic
The bright yellow spice, Turmeric, contains a compound called curcumin, which boosts immune function. Garlic has powerful anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties which enhance body immunity.
Apart from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking supplements, the Indian health ministry is also suggesting few organic and natural ways to practice as preventive measures to fight COVID-19. The Ministry of AYUSH has recommended the following self-care guidelines as preventive measures and to boost immunity with special reference to respiratory health.
- Drink warm water throughout the day.
- Practice Meditation, Yogasana, and Pranayama.
- Increase the intake of Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander, and garlic.
- Drink herbal tea or decoction of Holy basil, Cinnamon, Black pepper, Dry Ginger, and Raisin.
- Avoid sugar and replace it with jaggery if needed.
- Apply Ghee (clarified butter), Sesame oil, or Coconut oil in both nostrils to keep the nostrils clean.
- Inhale steam with Mint leaves and Caraway seeds.
While the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic is fought by our health care workers, we can do our bit by limiting our exposure to the virus by staying indoors, social distancing, eating healthy, hydrating, and following basic hygiene protocol.
- Dr.Ms. Parmeet Kaur | Senior Dietician | Clinical Nutrition & Dietetics