By Marika Sboros
COVID-19 is another case of a pandemic spreading fear, fiction, panic and chaos faster than the virus itself. The numbers involved certainly are frightening – and breathtaking.
They’re not surprising for a new strain of the coronavirus family that targets lungs and airways.
At last count, and just four months since COVID-19 first appeared in China’s Hubei province, the virus has affected 144 countries. The global death toll has topped 11,000, according to Worldometer, with confirmed cases of infection over 270,000. (By the time I finished writing that last sentence and you finished reading it, those numbers were out of date.)
Who’s most at risk?
There is currently no cure or accepted medical treatment for the virus. Vaccine prospects are too far on the horizon to help the pandemic anytime soon, say the experts.
They point out that most deaths have been in the elderly and the vast majority (80%) of those infected have only mild symptoms. However, anyone of any age with a serious underlying health problem is also at high risk.
And to pose risk, underlying problems are not just respiratory, such as asthma or other pulmonary disease. Diabetes, hypertension or other cardiovascular illnesses also increase the risk of dying from COVID-19. These diseases have become common in younger people over the past decades.
But arguably the bigger, if not the biggest threat that COVID-19 infection poses globally is not the virus itself. It is the devastating economic fallout. Contributing factors are broken or terminally ill healthcare systems and “market psychology”.
A perfect viral ‘storm’
Experts define market psychology as “the prevailing sentiment of financial market participants”. The currently prevailing global sentiment is overwhelmingly negative.
It has precipitated a perfect storm in the pandemic’s wake that is engulfing the planet with apocalyptic scenarios. It is sending stock markets into freefall and buffeting economies with demand and supply shocks.
The United Nation’s trade and development agency, UNCTAD, predicts that COVID-19 will likely cost the global economy $1-trillion in 2020. In the UK, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has called COVID-19 “arguably one of the greatest public health challenges of our time”. UK politicians have also dubbed it the “biggest peacetime threat”.
There’s some light amidst the economic doom and gloom. It lies in an intriguing phenomenon that the pandemic has spawned and media have dubbed “the rise of the Coronavirus Influencer”.
Influencers can be doctors and scientists. One of my favourites is Stanford physician-scientist Prof John Ioannidis. Read his latest on a “fiasco in the making” through bad decisions taken without reliable data. UK Global forecaster David Murrin is another. Listen to and read him on “denial swamped by reality” and real threat.
But influencers are also a motley crew of health economists and other assorted lateral thinkers operating outside the constraints of orthodox medical and scientific boxes.
Fighting #COVID-19 hoaxes
These influencers are well-placed to provide a unique perspective into the economic fallout. They help to offset the hoaxes, misinformation and conspiracy theories about deep-state plots, bioweapons and state propaganda swirling around COVID-19 online.
Many government leaders and public health authorities are clearly floundering in full-blown panic mode. Some countries, such as Spain and France, have followed China and hard-hit Italy by launching stringent “lockdown” suppressive measures. Others, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have opted for “mitigation” or “containment” methods.
Mitigation has its fans. It’s a delaying tactic to create “herd immunity” to ameliorate future outbreaks or until a vaccine becomes available. In the short term, this option allows for infection but also deaths.
Click here to read: Vaccination: Kendrick injects a challenge to dogma
The US and UK are among those who have flirted with mitigation before staggering into suppression.
Doing nothing is not an option
But neither side can reliably claim anything close to consensus science backing them up.
And what is clear is that doing nothing is not an option. Neither is taking too long to respond – even strongly. It may be why Italy’s death toll at 3405 since February has now surpassed China’s recorded 3,245 deaths since early January. That’s despite Italy’s number of confirmed cases at 35,713 not even half of China’s at 80,928 since the outbreak.
One US influencer worth reading is Tomas Pueyo, a Stanford University graduate and vice-president of Course Hero. It’s an online learning platform of course-specific study resources that he created.
Pueyo is author of a post, Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, that Buzzfeed calls “the defining piece” on the COVID-19 outbreak. Pueyo claims more than 40-million views and translations into more than 20 languages. He has followed it with Coronavirus – The Hammer and the Dance. Both are well worth the read.
Pueyo unapologetically supports suppression sooner rather than later.
Benefits of suppression
His justification, in short, is: “Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks.”
There should be no big peak of infections afterwards, he says. And authorities can do it at a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. Without these measures, the virus will infect tens of millions, Pueyo says. And many will die, along with those requiring intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.
After all, if 5% of cases require intensive care (as appears to be the case currently) and can’t get it, most of those people die. It’s “as simple as that”.
Pueyo also raises the spectre of “collateral damage” from a coronavirus outbreak that collapses an entire healthcare system: If you have a heart attack but the ambulance takes 50 minutes instead of 8 minutes to come (courtesy of too many coronavirus cases) and once you get to hospital and there’s no ICU and doctor available, you die.”
To fight worst-case scenarios, doctors at the coalface of the COVID-19 outbreaks are working to allay fears. They know that knowledge and understanding are key to understanding the severity of the risk COVID-19 poses.
They are also investigating prevention and protection methods including natural substances, optimum nutrition (even fasting) and vitamins and minerals that aim at “boosting the immune system”. That’s a controversial topic all on its own. It’s one that raises hackles of drug industry-led doctors.
It helps to know that COVID-19 is a member of the related coronavirus disease family that causes infections in mammals and birds. In humans, coronaviruses cause respiratory tract infections that can be mild, as in some cases of the common cold and seasonal flu. In other cases, including seasonal flu, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and COVID-19, the virus can be a killer.
And like other coronavirus infections, COVID-19 is a “zoonotic” disease. That is, it has made the “jump” from one species to another – with transmission between animals and humans. Unusually for a zoonotic virus, COVID-19 transmits effectively in humans.
Current estimates are that without stringent containment measures, the average person who catches Covid-19 will pass it on to at least two others. That shows up in research suggesting that young, asymptomatic carriers are one of the main drivers of the pandemic.
Corona or Cold?
An email to staff at an NHS hospital this week contains information on distinguishing COVID-19 from a simple cold: No “cold nose” or cough with cold. However, it says that an early symptom of the virus is a dry, rough cough.
(Editor’s note: an NHS doctor contacted me to say that the email that was forwarded via an NHS doctor is a hoax and that some of the information it contains is incorrect and potentially dangerous. I have, therefore, removed it and apologise to readers.)
Another good source is Scottish GP Dr Malcolm Kendrick. His latest blog is on COVID-19 and he begins it with an important caveat – he is not asking anyone to go against current medical advice. He is acutely aware of ongoing controversy around the virus, will not promote anything that can cause significant harm and is focusing on what can do “significant good”.
To that end, he has looked back “a few years in time for some evidence”. Current, emerging evidence is subject to “massive bias and controversy, with various vested interests getting involved”, Kendrick writes.
“Older” evidence has not been rushed and is, therefore, “more measured”.
COVID-19 appears to impact the lungs more than any other organ, Kendrick writes. It can be considered a form of “viral” community-acquired pneumonia.
He is a big fan of Vitamin C. Vitamins always cause “massive controversy” and the mainstream medical community tends to be highly critical of the vitamin use, he writes.
However, research shows that Vitamin C has many positive impacts on the immune system. It also protects the endothelium lining blood vessels, thus preventing/delaying passage of pathogens from the bloodstream.
He cites a 2017 paper, Vitamin C and Immune Function that concludes that Vitamin C deficiency results in impaired immunity and higher susceptibility to infections. In turn, infections “significantly impact on vitamin C levels due to enhanced inflammation and metabolic requirements”.
Click here to read: Vaccination: Kendrick injects challenge to dogma
Vitamin C can help prevent respiratory infections and treat established infections. In that case, patients need to take higher doses. This supports emerging Chinese data that appears to show considerable success with high-dose intravenous Vitamin C in treating coronavirus, he says.
Kendrick says it’s unlikely that anyone in conventional medical systems in the West will agree to use high-dose Vitamin C as part of any management plan. But if you or any of your loved ones is extremely ill in hospital with COVID-19, he recommends that you ask doctors to add Vitamin C to treatment.
He recommends at least 2g but closer to 5g Vitamin C daily to “prevent” infection. Increase the dose to at least 10g if you are suffering symptoms, he says.
Kendrick is also a big fan of Vitamin D. It’s simple, he says. Vitamin D has “important effects on the immune system“. A low vitamin D level in the winter is “almost certainly why flu epidemics occur in the winter months. Vitamin D is synthesised in the sun by the action of sunlight, he explains. His advice: take at least 2000iu vitamin D (preferably D3) daily.