Are corona viruses found in nature and what should we worry about?
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
For the past weeks in this column, we discussed how fruits and sugars are provided by God in nature. This time we discuss the corona virus as this is the biggest health challenge at the moment. A lot of people are scared, primarily because we know a little of it and oftentimes we don’t reflect on what is happening. We turn on our TV and it is talking about the corona virus in a way that makes the listener scared. Di ba, many newscasters talk as if everything is an emergency even if they are just reporting about the traffic. Observe this next time you listen to the news.
Last Thursday, there was on TV a press conference with DOH Secretary Duque and his staff and the WHO representative and I noticed how their voices were calm informing the public that there is now the first documented case of the 2019-nCov infection in the Philippines. (Emphasis on the “documented”.) This Chinese lady (of course, she had to come from Wuhan, China) consulted at a hospital on January 21, 2020 for a mild cough and laboratory results showed it positive for the 2019-nCov virus. Just this Friday morning, the news said that the WHO has declared the “novel corona virus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.”
What is this novel corona virus? “Novel” because it is a new strain that has not been identified before. Corona viruses are common in nature – they have been identified in the 1960s when there were gadgets to see such a minute organism. “Corona” refers to the crown-like surface projections of the virus. Corona viruses are a large group of viruses common among animals. There are also human corona viruses which cause mild illness like the common colds and ordinary flu. In rare cases the animal corona virus can be transmitted to humans (meaning they are zoonotic). In this case, it is observed that the virus gets meaner. Perhaps because we are not the natural host. If you remember the SARS virus (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS virus (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) – all of them are corona viruses that are believed to have originated from animals (camels, civets, bats, etc.) Now we have the corona virus, another cousin.
2019-nCov is a virus, meaning antibiotics won’t work. There’s no specific medicine to kill the virus. There’s no vaccine also for this new virus- of course, that is expected because it is new. If there was a ready vaccine for this, I would be suspicious. Anyway, since it is a virus, it also can’t stay alive outside a living cell or in a dry environment like dust. But it can thrive for some hours in droplets, meaning those phlegm or saliva that you spew out when you cough or sneeze. So cover your cough and sneeze. And since it is a virus that is a natural being in this world, God gave us a massive internal defense army to handle them– our blood contains a lot of special action components that can engulf, immobilize and kill any foreign intruder. 2019-nCov is an intruder. So our first concern now is to have and maintain a strong immune system.
Apparently, 2019-nCov is not as deadly as SARS or MERS, but deadlier than the ordinary flu perhaps because it is new and we have not developed immunity to it yet. But let us see the statistics. It is reported that nearly 10,000 people in Wuhan got sick, with 200 deaths. Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province in China with a population of more than 11 million in 2018. If the virus is so contagious and really deadly, we would expect more numbers. The virus was detected in December 2019 and so it means it was existing earlier. Many people have gone and out of Wuhan since then thus the disease is now in many other countries. However, it seems that if we have a good immune system, then we are okay. It does not mean, though, that you cannot get the virus. Infections from these germs whether they are viruses, bacteria or parasites, maybe inapparent, meaning no symptoms at all. Our first positive patient is currently asymptomatic, said Dr. Duque- meaning she is now ok. Or they can be very mild that you will not seek consultation kasi kunting sipon lang. Meaning there are more people who got the virus but many are not included in the statistics because they are well. They just harbor the virus and they can still infect others. Meaning also that the person seated beside you in the bus or in the plane can feel and look well but is harboring the virus and so he or she can transmit the virus to you when he or she speaks or sneezes or clears throat. The surgical mask may help but rely more on your inner defense.
So how to build your immune system so you can prevent the 2019-nCov virus? Simple. As DOH Secretary Duque said, practice good personal hygiene and have a healthy lifestyle. I would like to emphasize that healthy lifestyle is mainly food and eating – eat right (more veggies), eat organic, avoid processed foods especially those containing sugar (including white and brown sugar) as they paralyze or weaken your internal army. Eat slowly, chew your food well. Drink water often to keep your throat moist. Diffuse and apply essential oils. Sleep well or take enough rest. Be joyful and let your joy infect others. Avoid crowds and avoid going to hospitals if not really necessary. You may be the carrier, for all we know. Take time to pray. God has built in us a powerful system to ward off disease and he has given us the choice to undertake disease preventive measures. These should be our assurance. Keep well, dear readers!***
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.” Titus 2:11