We are currently in grips of a global public health crisis. As of today, the coronavirus (Covid-19) has spread to at least 166 countries and infected over 246,577 people - and the numbers continue to rise. The situation is serious; the novel disease, that mainly affects the lungs and airways, has claimed more than 10,000 lives worldwide.
The World Responds
Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak a pandemic and stressed on the need to take stricter preventive measures to control its spread. Europe has been declared the new epicenter of this pandemic, with Italy reporting the highest number of cases, followed by Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK.
Coronavirus Outbreak in the UK
According to Public Health England, the UK has had 3269 confirmed cases and 144 deaths. What’s more alarming about this situation is that these cases are expected to rise even more as testing picks up and the virus reaches its peak.
In the UK, we are bracing up to deal with the coronavirus. The government has proposed a complete lockdown plan and closed schools. With business closure and complete shutdown on the cards, the past few days have been surreal for most of us.
Only a few days ago we were going about our routine as usual, but a lot has changed over a few days - we are now working from home, self-restricting our movement and avoiding mass gatherings.
We would have to act collectively in the face of the challenging circumstances we face for the next few weeks. While the situation is alarming, we need to keep our calm and not give in to panic and disinformation.
The World Health Organisation has explicitly stated that while a cure is not yet available, we can protect ourselves against this virus by working together to reduce its transmission and contain it - and as we are finding out with this virus, simple precautions go a long way indeed.
So, let’s take a moment to educate ourselves about the coronavirus, its symptoms, how it spreads and what you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
What is Coronavirus?
Coronavirus also is known as Covid-19 is caused by a new member of the coronavirus family that has not been previously identified in humans. The Covid-19 originated in a wet market in Wuhan, a city in China’s Hubei province but soon spread all over the globe.
Coronavirus 19 is a virus that we have not encountered before. That is why we know very little about this pathogen right now - but we are finding out more about this virus with every passing day, thanks to the tireless efforts of the global health care community and medical researchers.
Covid-19 can cause pneumonia-like symptoms. It mainly affects the respiratory tract and the lungs but may also cause digestive issues. Common signs of the virus include:
- Respiratory symptoms such as wheezing and breathing difficulties
- Sore throat
- Persistent dry or productive cough
- Shortness of breath
More severe symptoms of the Covid-19 include:
- High Fever
- Body Aches and Pain
- Aggravated Cough
- Vomiting and Diarrhea
*If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, the NHS recommends that you stay at home and self-isolate for at least 7 days. If your symptoms get worse or last longer than 7 days, call NHS 111. Read the UK government’s guidelines for more information.
How Does Covid-19 Spread?
The coronavirus is a new illness so we are still figuring out how it spreads from person to person, but most viruses from the coronavirus family spread through cough and sneeze droplets.
When an infected person coughs or sneezes, they release small droplets of saliva. These droplets can directly fall on people, infecting them. They can also be directly inhaled or picked up on the hands and transferred when someone touches their face.
While it is improbable that the virus spreads through packages or food, we know that the coronavirus can survive for many hours to days on surfaces such as bus seats, wood furniture, and trains. There have also been reports of the virus being spread by asymptomatic individuals (people who have no symptoms) but we need more research to be sure.
Is There a Cure for Coronavirus Yet?
Presently, there is no specific treatment or vaccine available for coronavirus. Antibiotics do not work either since they are ineffective against viruses. The virus that causes Covid-19 belongs to a completely new strain, so it may take a while for us to develop a proper cure.
Until then, we need to take preventive measures to contain the virus and rely on our natural immune system to combat the virus. We can, however, rely on supportive treatment to relieve our symptoms.
Now is also a good time to pay attention to your nutrition chart. Some immunity-boosting superfoods can keep your body healthy and help it respond to foreign particles and pathogens (bacteria and viruses).
Food items like black seed oil, raw honey, and yogurt are packed with essential compounds (like phytochemicals, antihistamines, probiotics, and nutrients such as vitamins and probiotics) that our bodies require for optimal immunity.
Black seed oil (more on this later), a plant-based oil is packed with beneficial compounds. It has antifungal and antimicrobial properties. There is some evidence that the black seed oil alleviates flu-like symptoms, reduces respiratory inflammation and slows down the replication of coronaviruses in the body. However, the properties of this oil are yet to be tested on the specific strain of virus that caused Covid-19.
Have There Been Other Coronaviruses?
Yes, coronaviruses are zoonotic viruses that commonly infect animals. While these viruses are common in animals (particularly wildlife), they rarely jump from animals to human beings but once they do, they can have catastrophic consequences.
The 2002 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic which also originated in a wet market and the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are both caused by coronaviruses that come from animals.
What Can You Do?
When it comes to the coronavirus-19 outbreak, prevention is better than cure. Here are some of the steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones against this novel illness:
- Focus on Basic Hygiene
According to the WHO, basic hygiene and simple precautions can be effective in countering the spread of this virus. Here are some of the precautionary measures you can take to combat the spread of this virus:
- Wash your hands with soap and water: In order to properly wash your hands, wet your hands with clean, running water. Use soap to lather up your hands and scrub them properly for 20 seconds (sing the birthday song twice to pace yourself).
- Wash your hands every time you come back inside your house or office
- Use a hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue paper when you sneeze or cough. If you do not have a tissue paper available, sneeze into your elbow or arm
- Throw used tissue papers immediately in the bin, do not forget to wash your hands afterward
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth with your hands if your hands are unclean.
- Focus on Your Diet
In addition to making lifestyle changes, you should also focus on nourishing your body with the right nutrients. A balanced diet plays an important role in staying healthy. Some foods also regulate and boost our immune response.
This is a great time to begin eating healthy. Here are some of the foods items that keep your immune system active and strong:
- Black Seed Oil:
Black seed oil, also known as black cumin seed oil, is a potent oil extracted from seeds of the Nigella Sativa plant. It contains over 100 natural compounds required for a healthy immune response. These include essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Black seed oil is also packed with antihistamines such as Nigellone and 3 active phytochemicals such as thymol, thymoquinone, and thymohydroquinone. These compounds have major anti-inflammatory properties that can provide relief against sore throat, cough, and flu.
You can even make an immunity-boosting drink by following this recipe:
- Take a cup of warm water
- Add a spoonful of honey, a small amount of ginger and turmeric to it
- Add a few drops of black seed oil to your drink
- Stir and drink
- Citrus Fruits:
Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C which the body requires to build immunity and increase the production of white blood cells. White blood cells are specialised cells responsible for protecting the body against infectious diseases. You should take vitamin C rich fruits every day because our bodies cannot store vit C. Some of the fruits rich in vitamin C include:
- Raw Honey:
Raw honey is a wonderful superfood. Not only is it delicious, it is also loaded to the brim with essential minerals, vitamins, and enzymes that the body needs for healthy functioning. Raw honey also contains antioxidants, which play a vital role in our immune response. Antioxidants aid the immune system by minimising the damage caused by free radicals and reducing inflammation in our bodies.
Honey is a natural immunity-builder and sweetener. It is so versatile that you can pair it with any other superfood on this list. There are many varieties of herbal and raw honey - and that means you can pick a blend according to your taste or health preferences. You can top your salad with it, add it to your evening tea or just slap it on a toast and munch away.
- Leafy Green Vegetables:
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and broccoli are a rich source of vitamin C. In addition to that, they have antioxidants and beta-carotenes which may increase our body’s ability to combat infectious diseases.
Yogurt is rich in vitamin D which is also required by the body for healthy immune functioning. There is also some evidence that plain yogurt can aid the body in defending itself. Opt for plain or unsweetened yogurt and take it with a fruit salad.
Other immunity-building foods include turmeric, blueberries, sweet potatoes, and garlic.
- Follow Social Distancing Guidelines
We have been asked to adhere to social distancing protocols for a while but what does that mean? Social distancing is when we deliberately increase the physical space between ourselves to prevent the transmission of a contagious disease.
For now, since we do not have a cure available, adhering to social distancing ethics is the best way to make sure that you are protecting yourself and others around you.
Here are some general social distancing guidelines you should be following:
- Avoid close contact with people who have flu-like symptoms
- Avoid mass gatherings and crowds
- Postpone all social activities including visits to pubs, restaurants, recreation parks, and cinemas
- If you can work from home, stay at home.
- Avoid social gatherings and do not invite visitors to your home for a while
- Only travel on public transport if you have to
- Make Lifestyle Changes
Since we do not have a treatment for novel coronavirus, we have to rely on our immune system to combat it. That’s why its important to make lifestyle changes:
- If you smoke, you should try to quit as soon as possible. The coronavirus-19 is a respiratory disease that affects the lungs and smoking can cause major lung damage.
- Exercising regularly in your room could also help you build an immune response to viral infections and other illnesses. It can improve the body’s natural defense activity and our overall metabolic health. Just make sure you exercise indoors.
Should You Be Worried?
According to recent data, over 80 percent of people who contracted the Covid-19 only experienced mild flu-like symptoms and recovered swiftly. The mortality rate of this virus is 3 - 6% which means that most people recover from the virus, especially if they begin supportive treatment early.
Older people and individuals with underlying conditions such as respiratory issues, cardiac diseases or diabetes need to be more careful since they are at high risk. Taking preventive measures and social distancing is especially important if:
- You are 70 or over
- You have a long-term condition
- You are pregnant
- You have a compromised immune system
*If you fall into any of these categories, take a minute to read NHS guidelines on prevention and care.