This article is written by Fitday Nutrition expert, Dr. Umashri Rao Francis (M.B.B.S)
COVID-19, short for Coronavirus disease 2019 is an acute respiratory illness (like flu) caused by the Novel SARS-COV-2 coronavirus that emerged in China’s Wuhan City, hence also called the Wuhan virus. First detected in December 2019, authorities suspected the virus stemmed from something sold at a local wet market. Scientists suspect its origin in a bat and hopped to another animal before being passed to a human. Some reports also suggest that it may have leaked from a microbiology lab in Wuhan. Now as the disease spreads from human to human, it’s pushing the world into a health crisis.
Image source - CDC
The World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 as a pandemic as more than 200000 people are infected and more than 6000 deaths have occurred worldwide. COVID-19 is affecting 170 countries and territories and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess Cruise ship harbored in Japan).
COVID-19 is a fast spreading infection, more infectious than SARS. It spreads through droplet infection; when an infected person coughs or sneezes, secretions in the form of sputum or saliva as airborne droplets may land on another person, hard surfaces, or cloth which carries the viruses. If any person comes in contact and touches his mouth, eyes or nose, the virus enters and infects them, with symptoms appearing 2 to 14 days after exposure. Most common symptoms of COVID-19 are Fever, Cold, Dry Cough and shortness of breath. Some patients may also have body ache, nasal congestion, running nose, sore throat and diarrhea. In complicated cases they may develop severe breathing difficulties due to pneumonia.
Image source - CDC
Note: If you are sick and suspect exposure to COVID-19, contact your primary doctor or the nearest health center. Wear a face mask to prevent spread of the infection and follow the rules of home quarantine, as detailed below.
Testing for COVID-19
The COVID infection can be confirmed by laboratory tests. On getting a confirmation, patients with mild symptoms who are young, healthy, and have no additional conditions, can be treated at home. People who are most susceptible to getting severe symptoms are children, pregnant women, senior citizens, cardiac patients, high blood pressure patients, and diabetics. These patients must be isolated in a well-ventilated room. Household members should be educated about personal hygiene, basic protective measures to be taken while giving care to a patient. Limit the number of caregivers to the patient, keep the patient away from older people or any immunocompromised people and caregivers should use protective gear while attending the patient. All the patients of COVID-19 who have severe acute respiratory distress must be admitted to a healthcare facility.
Medical Treatment for COVID-19
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 as at present there is no known drug of choice to treat the disease. Symptomatic treatment is given; treating the symptoms that a patient is experiencing, but not the underlying condition. In Rajasthan reports suggest that anti-viral drugs and antimalarial drugs like chloroquine have shown positive results in curing the disease. In China and Japan antiviral drugs like Favipiravir are being used in treatment of the disease. But clinical trials are still on to develop the necessary drugs and vaccines for COVID-19.
STRENGTHENING YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Now we come to the most important matter of immediate concern. Boosting your immune system to fight against COVID-19 along with taking the basic protective measures is very important. Our Immune system is our defense mechanism of the human body to fight against foreign bodies or infections which enter the body. When the immune system is weak, we become susceptible to allergies, infections be it bacterial, viral, or fungal. People who have a weak immune system are highly susceptible to COVID-19. There are various reasons for a weak immune system like cancers, AIDS, but mainly nutritional deficiencies. Medical conditions like cancer and AIDS can be addressed and taken care of by medical professionals. Nutritional deficiencies are for every individual to take care of themselves.
Nutritional deficiencies, mainly deficiency of vitamins can weaken your immune system and make you susceptible to the virus. Key nutrients like Vitamin C and Vitamin E help in building your immunity. Vitamin D, freely available from sunshine is also good for our immunity. Sleepless nights can be terrible for your immune system so get a good night’s sleep to boost and maintain your immune system.
You can boost your immune system by taking food rich in Fats, Phytonutrients and Fiber.
Fats : The good fats essential for our body is found in oils like Sesame, Coconut and Olive oil, oily fish (salmon, mackerel/tuna, hilsa, sardines, avocado, seeds (pumpkin, flax, sesame), and nuts (almonds and walnuts).
Phytonutrients: These are superfoods which protect our body against sickness. They are found in higher amounts in fruits and vegetables. The deeper the color of fruits and vegetables, the higher the amount of phytonutrients in them.
Dietary Fiber: is present in fruits (blueberries, strawberries, oranges, papaya, lemons), vegetables (brinjals, carrots, pumpkins, etc), whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa), and greens (spinach, amaranth, brocoli).
Image source - American Heart Association
If the nutritional deficiency is severe then one must take vitamin supplements along with the highly nutritious foods (listed above). Along with a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to a strong immune system and good health to fight against the new coronavirus. Yoga and Pranayama are extremely beneficial with reducing stress levels and fighting anxiety to further boost your immune system.
Non-vegetarian food should be well cooked. There is no evidence of transmission of infection from live animals, although reports have suggested transmission of the virus from a patient to her pet dog in Hongkong. Diabetics should maintain good sugar levels as high sugars lowers their immunity and makes a good medium for multiplication of COVID19 virus.
Basic Preventive Measures
Hand washing at regular intervals with soap and water for 20 seconds and sanitizing using an alcohol-based sanitizer from time to time is very essential. When outdoors avoid touching surfaces with access to many people. Avoid physical contact and maintain 3 feet distance from coughing and sneezing people. Don't touch your face without washing your hands.
People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice good cough and sneezing etiquette; maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues, and wash hands with soap and water. People should use their elbows to cover coughs or sneezes. They could also cough into a tissue and dispose of the tissue carefully. If suffering from a cough or cold, people should wear face masks to avoid spread of the infection, especially while visiting a health center to avoid cross infection.
Image source - UNICEF
Social distancing is the key to stopping the spread of COVID-19 which means avoiding large gatherings like weddings, parties and public places like malls, movie theaters, and supermarkets. Non-essential travel and public transport must also be avoided.
Image source - Spectrum News1
Q. COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates?
A. No! It can spread to any area, regardless of climate. Take all preventive measures, at all times.
Q. Cold weather and snow cannot kill the new coronavirus?
A. No evidence to believe that.
Q. Having a hot bath will prevent COVID-19 infection!
A. No! It will not. Frequent hand washing will help.
Q. New coronavirus cannot be transmitted by mosquito bite?
A. We don’t know yet, all we know is that it happens by droplet infection.
Q. Are hair dryers effective in killing new coronavirus?
A. No! Hand washing will help.
Q. Ultraviolet rays from UV Lamps will kill the new coronavirus?
A. No! UV lamps should never be used as it may cause skin irritation and other problems.
Q. Thermal scanners can detect the new coronavirus?
A. No! It can only detect people who have developed a fever.
Q. Can eating garlic help to prevent COVID-19?
A. Garlic is a healthy food. However, there is no evidence to prove that eating garlic will help prevent COVID infections during the current outbreak.
Q. Does the new coronavirus affect older or younger people?
A. It affects people of all ages. But complications are seen more in older people.
Q. Are there medicines to prevent the new coronavirus?
A. No. Not to date.
COVID-19 virus has created a major health crisis in the world. It is not only affecting physical health but also pushed the world towards a major economic crisis. We, all world citizens, have a social responsibility to stop the spread of COVID-19 infection by taking all the protective measures to safeguard ourselves and our fellow citizens against this war with the new coronavirus. Governments can make the path and show the path, to walk on the path to safety is our prerogative.
About Dr. Umashri Rao Francis: Dr. Francis has been practicing Medicine for over 26 years. She is an experienced physician successfully treating a vast majority of the local population, in particular the poorly diagnosed and difficult cases. Dr. Francis is a regular contributor to the #FitBlog and is available to answer your article related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org