As we focus attention on the current “COVID-19” crisis, many emotions come into play. Though understandable, fear is easily quelled with just a bit of perspective. Armed with evidence-based scientific data, we are empowered.
To be clear, we live in concert with countless micro-organisms – in, on, and surrounding our bodies. Our beautiful planet is filled with complexity. In wisdom, all creatures – including humans, adapt to survive and even thrive, along with bacteria, fungi, and viruses of all shapes and sizes. For example, you might be familiar with fungi, such as Candida albicans, which can cause tremendous issues for the mind, body and spirit. (Google for details). Though fungi and viruses are generally unpleasant, interventions we take to keep them in check often serve to strengthen our immune system.
Now, to be thorough, here are a few words about bacteria. Some are good. Some are bad. They aren’t all dangerous – and some are important for a healthy body. We call the beneficial bacteria “probiotics” and embrace them as helpful and healing. Did you know we have many species of bacteria that work well as team-members in certain organ systems of the body, while they might wreak havoc if they relocate to other organ systems in the same body? An example of this would be Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium that is part of a healthy digestive system (though some members of this species may cause gut issues); however, if this bacterium gets into the urinary tract, a “urinary tract infection” results, for which one might take an antibiotic.
So where does the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 come into the discussion? Just as we humans have learned to live with fungi and bacteria, we have the ability to live with viruses, which are unique in that they are neither alive nor dead – rather. they represent ‘potential’ which is fulfilled only if conditions are right. This means that, without proper conditions, this virus can’t replicate. It can’t do damage. The key is to create an environment that prevents it from damaging humans – and while challenging for some, it is truly easier to do than you might think.
First, we must prevent the virus from coming into contact with any ‘mucus membranes’ on the body. These are areas on the body that are moist from body secretions, such as eyes, inside the nose, inside the mouth, and so on. If the virus gets onto hands, the hands and fingers can put the virus into an eye (by rubbing) or into the nose or mouth – unless the virus is deactivated by soap and water or by 70% alcohol applied directly to it. The hands are main target areas for the virus, as the virus can enter the human body by fingers delivering it directly to any mucus membrane.
Second, it helps to understand other ways in which the virus can travel. The virus can linger on surfaces such as paper, plastic, and metal – to name a few. It also travels through the air on droplets invisible to the naked eye. So, if a person happens to have this virus, but is not yet showing symptoms, the virus can reproduce in that person and spread itself to others as the person speaks, coughs, or sneezes. Masks worn by people help to prevent the virus from spreading from the one wearing the mask to others who are also wearing masks; however, there are additional precautions to take to prevent accidental infection of others.
It is essential to remember that, since the virus is so small, it is able to pass through regular masks. This means we need to step up our game by providing a greater distance between the infected (but not yet sick) people, and those with whom they speak. Particles of saliva within which the virus travels are generally able to propel up to 13’ from the one who speaks. This means that social distancing between two people – one of whom might be unknowingly infected, reduces chances of permitting the virus to spread to others.
Bottom line interventions: (1) keep your immune system up, (2) use soap and water to wash hands upon re-entry to your home (as well as prior to and after you prepare and eat food), (3) leave outside shoes at the door (wear only inside shoes to walk around your home), (4) designate a ‘dirty area’ for packages, bags etc. that you bring into your home (and wash your hands after handling those packages and the contents), (5) cover your nose and mouth with your mask (and look up how to properly put on and take off the mask for optimal safety). These are just five of the many interventions necessary to stay safe during this time.
Follow the above interventions for yourself, your loved ones, and especially for vulnerable people (such as diabetics, anyone taking prescribed steroids, those with chronic lung, kidney or heart issues, people over the age of 65, and anyone living with an immune-system diagnosis), as they are more susceptible to contracting any of the over 14 mutations of this novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Viruses mutate to adapt just as we change our behavior to adapt to them. It is possible that some day we might eradicate COVID-19; however, there will always be challenges to which we must adapt if we are to thrive on this planet in concert with all organisms and life forms. Make choices in evidence-based scientific wisdom, stay vigilant, get restful sleep during nighttime hours, and embrace the healing power of positive vibrations (music, color, light).
About the author: Dr. Nancy Iankowitz DNP, RN, FNP-BC is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC, editor of scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, and author of several books.