This information is accurate based on this posting date 03/01/20

We are now certain that the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) will arrive in the USA in the coming months. Before it gets here, use your naturopathic physician at Natura Health and Wellness to clarify your risk status, to help you prepare and address especially any respiratory or immune system vulnerabilities you may live with now, before your vulnerabilities put you at greater risk.

2019-nCoV, first identified in the Wuhan province of China late last fall, is a completely new virus, never before experienced by human immune systems. The newness of this virus is the reason for our intense interest and trepidation about it. The naturopathic physicians at Natura Health and Wellness are preparing to meet this multifaceted challenge. Whatever else we learn about 2019-nCoV in the coming months, all protective measures start with taking care of your basic health and practicing public health behaviors that are universally effective. Your ND is a specialist in whole person preventative medicine, and naturopathic medicine offers effective anti-viral and immune system optimizing therapy.

As this virus spreads outward from China, we are more able to assess the course and consequences of infection. A key detail is that we are seeing how a population subjected to extraordinary levels of chronic air pollution reacts to a respiratory tissue attack. We don’t have the data yet, but it will not be surprising to learn that populations living with cleaner air have a different experience with 2019-nCoV. We will also be assessing the public health system response in different countries; almost certainly, war-torn regions, and countries with minimal economic resources to manage a crisis, will feature in the inevitable spread of the virus. How populations experience the illness that results depends on a number of factors, some of which you can impact with your choices.

Here in Montana we have episodes when forest fire smoke has challenged us for weeks on end. The doctors at Natura Health and Wellness have typically seen an increase in cases of sinusitis, bronchitis and reactive airway illness during fire season. A subset of folks will continue to be affected for months after exposure to the irritating smoke, as their immune responses are restored to balance. They struggle initially with the immune response to the actual particulate irritant, and after that from the immune activity that is healing tissue damage once the virus is defeated.

Authorities report the CVD-19 having a similar, two-phase effect. While tens of thousands are infected, the vast majority have a mild illness, and recover fully as from most flu and cold viruses. For the elderly, and the very young, and people of all ages with chronic respiratory conditions, it can be severe and sometimes deadly. People with respiratory challenges- COPD, emphysema, asthma, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, pleural effusion, as well as people who smoke or vape – are at highest risk of damage from CDV-19. Next highest are people of any age who are weakened by severe distress and demands- think of doctors and nurses in Wuhan Province, China right now, for instance.

2019-nCoV first triggers an immune response that is low-grade and prolonged. That is, people are ‘hosting’ the virus for a while before they experience symptoms, because the immune system, having never seen this virus before, is mounting a completely new response that takes a few days to manifest. When we are infected with a virus our system has been exposed to in the past, we see symptoms rather quickly because our immune response is already educated about how to respond. Currently authorities say people seem to be contagious for 48 hours before their first symptoms with 2019-nCoV. That means people are infecting others before they drop out of public because of illness.

All of the professionals at Natura Health and Wellness offer tools for prevention and treatment of viruses. Our acupuncturists, massage therapists, behavioral and nutritional specialists each offer elements of care that address current symptoms and strengthen your constitution. We provide non-pharmaceutical, natural medicine interventions for many troubling chronic conditions with a focus on immune response. This support is absolutely vital to prepare for a potential pandemic of respiratory illness.

The most important thing you can do right now is to make sure any chronic health condition you have is well managed. People with existing chronic illnesses are at higher risk of experiencing the severest version of any viral infection. Address any chronic illnesses vigorously, and take appropriate preventative measures, to increase the likelihood you will suffer a milder course any viral infection. You do not have to guess at how exactly to achieve this; your naturopathic physician can assess your risk with you and guide your choices to maximize your strengths. At Natura Health and Wellness, we have particular expertise supporting the immune system and helping our patients develop an appropriate immune response

2019-nCoV challenges us in three different ways.

  1. Direct damage to the organs, in particular the lower lungs
  2. An immune system response known as a cytokine storm, which can be life-threatening, but usually results in fever, aches and pains
  3. The consequences of a cytokine storm, which are potentially the most dangerous to vulnerable patients

Cytokines are signaling molecules that regulate the immune response. Dr. Paul Herscu, naturopathic physician and epidemic specialist describes two primary responses we can use in response to a viral cytokine storm. First, try to prevent and reduce the cytokine response by being infection-resistant, and second, to remove excessive cytokines from the bloodstream. While technology exists for cytokine reduction and removal, it is not guaranteed to be effective as there is, to date, mixed data on survival benefits with cytokine removal.

However there are several natural substances that can regulate cytokines, including curcumin,  resveratrol, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), black tea, and vitamin E. Visit with your ND at Natura Health and Wellness to learn how to best use preventative resources in your personal circumstance.

IN ALL CASES, once a person becomes ill with 2019-nCoV, the emergency department is the best option for managing a cytokine storm when someone is having a severe reaction to the virus. In-hospital is where the resources for both pharmacological anti-viral agents and/or removing enough of the cytokines from the bloodstream to shorten the length and severity of the cytokine storm, are found.

Prevention is best

Our colleague, Dr. Sherry Pittman of Portland, OR describes steps for prevention as well as how to make optimal use of naturopathic services if you become infected:

Basic steps to avoid exposure and exposing others to any virus including the current Coronavirus:

  • Stay home if you are sick!
  • Avoid people who are sick.
  • Prioritize hand-washing more often, with soap and water for twenty seconds, especially before eating.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when handwashing is not possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard or sneeze into your bent elbow.
  • Limit handling doorknobs and other public surfaces without gloves.
  • In a severe epidemic, use gloves outside to limit contact. Wash gloves daily.
  • Avoid large crowds and places with poor ventilation.
  • Use a properly fitted mask in large crowds or places with poor ventilation. If using a mask, change it frequently as they harbor bacteria.

Bolster your health and immune system with these tips:

  • If you are feeling run down, take a day off for rest and healing.
  • Drink plenty of fluids including water, broth-based soups, and no-sugar beverages.
  • Exercise- do what you usually do, don’t over-work
  • Prioritize good quality sleep, essential for a well-functioning immune system.
  • Avoid sweeteners, alcohol, and refined, overly processed foods.
  • Eat a diet that supports optimal immune function: lots of vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. Add cultured/fermented food and drink to support an active and robust microbiome, which in turn supports proper immunity. Include high fiber foods for optimizing the gut microbiome.
  • Stop smoking or vaping. Viral-like symptoms will be worse in smokers. You also help protect loved ones from the impact of second-hand smoke.
  • Reduce your stress levels. The stress hormone cortisol negatively impacts immune function.

Below are some natural medicine modalities available at Natura Health and Wellness that enhance immunity while helping to create and maintain healthy mucous membrane tissue:

  • Acupuncture is well established as immune modulating, and Chinese herbal formulas have been helpful for restoring mucous membrane function.
  • Botanical medicines help prevent flu. Some key herbs to consider include licorice root, marshmallow root, ginseng, elderberry, echinacea, and garlic. Your naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist at Natura health and Wellness can also help you with herbs to help protect vital organs affected by the virus such as the lungs.
  • Nutritional supplements will help ensure optimal immune system function. These include but are not limited to zinc, vitamin C, and probiotics.
  • Consider immune boosting IV therapy to accelerate adjusting your immune responses
  • Using a humidifier will reduce virus survival in your home environment (7) and may decrease transmission.
  • Learn simple, at-home hydrotherapy treatments from your ND, to help to stimulate a protective response and reduce the toxic effects of the virus.
  • Address your stress; sometimes being frantic about doing everything right in the face of a threat becomes part of the problem. Massage helps, in multiple ways as does insight into our behaviors and learning behavior modifications.

How to Respond to the Coronavirus

We know that person-to-person spread of a corona virus happens across a continuum. Generally, some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so. 2019-nCoV seems so far to be significantly less contagious than measles.

Corona viruses are believed to spread via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, just like the familiar flu and the common cold. Spread of MERS and SARS between people has generally occurred between close contacts. We now know that people infected with 2019-nCoV are probably contagious for about 48 hours before that person is experiencing symptoms.

For the current virus, symptoms vary greatly from mild respiratory illness, fever, and cough, to more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing and death. According to the CDC, symptoms can develop 2-14 days after exposure. There is currently no vaccine for 2019-nCoV.

The CDC recommends that people should be evaluated if they meet the following clinical features & epidemiological risk factors:

  • Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as cough or difficulty breathing and
  • In the last 14 days before symptom onset, a history of travel or close contact with a person who is under investigation or has a confirmed diagnosis for Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

If you think you have been exposed to the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or you have symptoms of the virus, here is a list of steps to follow:

  • It will be important to follow quarantine guidelines. If you think you might be contagious, you should keep yourself isolated and avoid contact with other people.
  • Seek appropriate conventional care in addition to naturopathic care.
    • Call the Emergency Department and let them know that you are experiencing symptoms that may be related to the Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). They will provide you with instructions for how to receive care, and they can administer care in an isolation room, so the virus is not spread.
    • Reach out to your primary care doctor as well; especially if you have other chronic conditions you see them for.
    • Reach out to your Natura Health and Wellness provider by phone or through your portal messaging system to set up an acute same day phone consultation.

Nan Dunne Byington, ND 2/25/20

With excerpts from Sherry Pittman, ND and Paul Herscu, ND