November 17 – The first known case of COVID-19 infection is submitted to a hospital in Wuhan. At this time, the origin of his disease is unknown, but later tests confirm that he was infected by the COVID-19 virus.
December 27 – Zhang Jixian, a doctor from a Hubei province hospital alerts the Chinese health authorities that there was an outbreak of a new coronavirus. The health authorities are asking to keep silent about the cases, and effective preventive measures are not taken until after the new year holiday celebrations.
December 30 – The ophthalmologist Li Wenliang sees in a Wuhan hospital a patient record, showing positive results for SARS coronavirus infection. He shared the news with medical colleagues on social media, asking them to prepare for a crisis. Later on the same day, he made an update that 7 cases of SARS were reported, that it was confirmed as coronavirus infection but the exact subtype was still being diagnosed. The news spread like wildfire. On January 3 the police interrogated Li on accusations of spreading false news on the internet, making him sign a paper to never do that again.
December 31 – Chinese Health Officials inform the WHO about a cluster of 41 patients with mysterious pneumonia. Most cases are linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which is closed down on January 1.
January 11 – The Chinese state media reported the first known death from a Wuhan citizen, that had occurred on January 9. The news came just before an important Chinese holiday where millions of people traveled all over the country, but no restrictions were enforced until after the holidays. The Wuhan city council held a big celebration with 40,000 participants. News about the outbreak were frequently withheld or altered.
January 13 – The first case of COVID-19 is reported outside of China. The patient is a 61 years old Chinese woman living in the Wuhan area, traveling for tourism to Thailand. Reports of transmissions to Japan, Korea and other countries follow soon afterwards.
January 20 – The first case is reported in the US, where a man reported symptoms after returning from a trip to Wuhan. During the first weeks of the crisis, President Trump is trying to downplay the situation, calling the coronavirus infection nothing more than a common flu. Great Britain’s initial strategy is to let the pandemic run its course in order for the population create immunity.
January 23 – China is isolating the entire city of Wuhan in order to slow down the spread of the disease in the rest of the country. Emergency hospitals are developed in record speed to try to catch up with the rising demand.
January 24 – The first COVID-19 genome was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. For the first time, the genome of an infectious agent is available to the public in such a short time. This helped a lot to develop reliable tests for the virus and start the development of vaccines.
January 30 – The WHO declares the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern
February 6 – Li Wenliang, who had contracted a COVID-19 infection from one of his patients, dies in intensive care. The population of the entire country upholds him as a hero, and anger rises against the government for silencing the whistleblower who only wanted to warn their colleagues to prepare for an infectious outbreak.
February 23 – Italy is seeing his first surge of an outbreak, having more than 150 cases reported. In the Lombardy region, officials locked down 10 towns. Specialists say that it was too little too late, and that the initial delay of just 6 days to implement effectiv measures did cost thousands of lives down the line of the crisis.
March 3 – The CDC lifts restrictions of coronavirus testing after their own developed test kits proved to be inaccurate. Some are speculating that initial delays for testing were on purpose in order to keep the numbers low and avoid early turmoils that could interfere with economic interests. But February 29 the first US patient died and the need for widespread testing was becoming eminent.
March 11 – The WHO declares COVID-19 as a pandemic, having reported worldwide 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 deaths. While China and Korea show significantly declining epidemics, the infection is spreading around the world. The WHO is calling all countries to drastic measures, voicing the somewhat optimistic belief that the pandemic could be still controlled.
March 13 – President Trump declares a national emergency, and said he is making $50 billion in federal funds available to states and territories to combat the coronavirus. Two days afterwards the CDC advised to cancel all gatherings of 50 or more people in the US for the next 8 weeks, and schools start to close down. A simulation study showing the disastrous effect of not implementing restrictions seems to have been the impulse for a sudden strategy change in the US as well as the UK. #flatteningthecurve is the new slogan.
March 16 – Several Latin American countries impose restrictions in order to slow the spread of the virus. However, Jair Bolsonaro, the president of Brazil, encouraged mass demonstrations by his supporters, while restrictions are being implemented by regional authorities throughout the country.
March 22 – The city of Wuhan starts to loosen the restrictions that were applied two months earlier, allowing citizens to leave their homes, walking on streets and going to grocery stores. The first train brings more than 1000 workers into the town. The lift of restrictions is though gradual and impacts on new outbreaks still need to be observed.
At the same time, we have reached worldwide close to 300,000 confirmed cases spread out in 198 countries and about 15,000 deaths. Italy alone has a death toll of 600 persons per day and no end in sight. South Corea and Japan seem to be the only countries that managed to control the infection successfully that far.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump has made a statement that he plans only for a short shutdown. “Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” he said. Bolsonaro is echoing the same words in Brazil, saying that “we need to defend the economic stability of the country, otherwise the cure will be worse than the sickness”. Officials around the country are just scratching their heads because everybody else agrees that restrictions are the only way to avoid a disaster in the same dimensions as in Italy.
What we can see is that the developments are very drastic and fast, while several governments tended to downplay the severity and tried to hide the truth as long as they could. That has created much fear and uncertainty among the population. In a crisis like this, it is important to be very transparent so that everybody knows what to expect from the future. Knowing the facts is transmitting more security than uncertainty and distrust caused by people who deliberately distort the truth.
What is the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
The name, coronavirus, is based on the appearance of the virus having lots of stalks on its surface sort of like a crown. Hence the name coronavirus.
Most coronaviruses only infect animals and do not transmit from animals to humans. There are only seven coronaviruses known to infect humans.
It is not the first time that a coronavirus caused a worldwide health concern. In November 2002 a coronavirus caused in southern China the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom (SARS) and spread around the world, eventually killing more than 750 people in 37 countries. It was contained by placing patients in quarantine. The fatality rate was about 11%, which is higher than for COVID-19, but the infection rate was fortunately lower. The outbreak ended in 2004 and never resurfaced. Scientists have later located a species of horseshoe bats to be the carriers of the virus. The Chinese team warned that another deadly outbreak of SARS could emerge anytime.
In 2012 occurred an outbreak of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome starting in Saudi Arabia and spreading to other countries in the Middle East and Asia. It seems to have originated also in bats and possibly spread via camels. The fatality rate was about 30% but fortunately, it was not highly infectious. For that reason, it caused no more than 600 deaths worldwide. The practice of drinking camel´s milk may have contributed to the transmission in some cases.
The characteristics of the COVID-19 virus are different. The fatality rate is only 2-3%, and more recent estimates reduce it to 1,4%. The majority of patients will have only mild fever with similar symptoms than the common flu. The flu, while it is quite widespread, has fortunately a fatility rate of less than 0.1%.
Scientists have though discovered some genetic characteristics that make the COVID-19 virus strain much more infectious. A typical flu patient will infect in the average 1.3 other people. For coronavirus, the infection rate is estimated to be 2-2,5.
What does that mean? If the infection is 2.0 for example, one person infects two more. Those two infect four more. Those four infect eight more. Those eight infect 16. Those 16 infect 32. The rate accelerates pretty quickly, leading to a rapid exponential growth of infected cases.
Lets compare now the spreading of the flu with the COVID-19 coronavirus, considering there would be on restrictive measures in place. In a 2 week period, one flu patient may have infected another and spreading it to a total of 6 other persons in this period. After 4 weeks it would grow to 39 cases and reaching 1,500 cases after 8 weeks. In comparison, the coronavirus would spread from one to 128 people within the first 2 weeks, after 4 weeks to 16,000, and after 8 weeks to 268 million. The curve would only flatten out after 80% of the population has caught the virus and developed immunity.
The incubation period – that space of time when the virus has invaded your body but you don’t have symptoms yet – is seemingly between seven to 14 days. That’s a relatively long period. While there are no symptoms the person can unknowingly transmit the virus to others. For the flu, the incubation period is from 1 to 4 days only.
The Imperial College of London made a simulation model for both the US and the United Kingdom. The simulation estimated that in case of no interventions, in the second week of April the demand would surpass the supply of hospital beds, leading to a 30 times greater demand of hospital beds than available. The disease would cost about 510,000 lives in the UK and around 2.2 million death in the United States.
Considering this drastic outcome, both countries have applied measures to flatten the curve. When all the contemplated measures, like school closures, home quarantine of all infected cases and their families, and social distancing from the population over 70 are implemented, the need of hospital beds would fall to about a third.
In order to achieve those results, an implementation of 3 months of restrictions is required. And even implementing those restrictions, the demand for hospital beds may rise 8 times above the available intensive care units. As the disease spreads, probably more drastic restrictions will be needed.
There are hopes that implementing those measures, the disease can be suppressed in a similar way as in China or Korea, where new cases are already on the decline. The problem though, that as long as the majority of the population did not get infected and had a chance to create immunity, new cases can rise soon after restrictions are lifted. Subsequent restrictions may be needed that will aim to control the situation until eventually vaccines are in place. In the meantime we probably need to find some social distancing model that does not completely disrupt our economy, but keeps somehow the explosion of new cases at bay. At the current scenario, it may take possibly 2-3 years until the disease is totally under control.
Putting Things Into Perspective
The COVID-19 is not the greatest health threat that we faced so far as humanity. As of June 2, we reached about 380,000 deaths from COVID worldwide, but we know that those numbers will still grow. The WHO estimates that the flu costs between 250,000 and 500,000 lives every year, and surely the COVID-19 infection will pass this death toll by the end of this year. The Spanish Flue caused somewhere between 50 and 100 million deaths between 1918 and 1919. It is estimated that the plague erased about 200 million lives in the Middle Ages. Estimates say that the HIV virus caused around 35 million deaths since 1981.
Things are getting worse when it comes to lifestyle diseases like heart disease and cancer. It is estimated that coronary vascular diseases cause every year 17 million deaths, accounting for 1/3 of all deaths worldwide. And almost 10 million people die every year from cancer. This scenario is repeating every year, and we accept it as totally normal.
Fact is that 80 to 90% of these deaths are totally preventable. Imagine if we could eradicate smoking from the planet, we would instantly eliminate 1/3 of all cancer deaths. And what if we would put the owners of fast-food chains in jail for sacrificing the lives of millions of their clients, who die on heart disease and cancer as a result? The good news is that we do not need to wait for government restrictions to be in place. Making some sensible lifestyle changes can reverse this deadly trends in our lives instantly.
What Can We Do?
Let us analyze the current scenario. Currently there are no vaccines available. Estimates are that it will take at least a year to get a vaccine from development to proper testing and multiplication so that it is available for a larger audience.
There are also no medications available. Antibiotics are only effective for bacterial infections, and for viruses they do not help at all. Some french doctors have suggested the use of a malaria drug, but large scale studies are needed to really prove its efficiency. The WHO has chosen the 4 most promising medication options to study their efficacy against COVID-19 in a clinical trial. But for the moment there are no efficient treatment options known.
Most cases are mild and do not need any special intervention. About 19% of cases need hospitalization. In severe cases, they will intubate the patient and keep him on a ventilator until he recovers. This is nowadays the standard procedure of treatment. But where we can do a lot is in the field of prevention.
The main focus of government agencies around the world relies on minimizing social interaction to avoid the exponential growth of the virus. As studies have indicated, this is really effective for flattening the curve of the outbreak. And for our own safety, it is recommended to abide by the recommendations and reduce interaction with people outside the family circle to the absolute necessary. With these measures we will be able to mitigate or even suppress in some areas the epidemic outbreak of the disease.
People with symptoms of a flue should quarantine themselves at home, together with their family members, who most likely caught the same infection due to close interactions.
For elderly people the fatality risk is rising drastically, reaching about 15% for those above 80 years of age. Elderly people, especially those with other underlying conditions like heart disease, asthma and other lung diseases as well as diabetes are at still higher risk to die from the disease.
While it is important to limit social contact to other people, there is no need to stay locked up at home. A walk in the neighborhood, as long as you stay at a distance of 6 feet or 2 meters away from other people, is actually healthy. As long as you take off the shoes at the door, there is not much risk of getting infected, and some vigorous exercise will help you strengthen the immune system.
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 to 30 seconds. If you don’t have access to soap and water use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel with at least 60% of alcohol. Rub a dollop of gel on your hands until it evaporates. Use an alcohol-based hand wipe. Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of both germs and viruses.
Think of all the surfaces you touch that other people touch:
- door handles
- light switches
- computer keyboards
- supermarket carts
- chair arms
- food service trays
- stair railings
- bathroom fixtures
If a person has the coronavirus, even without obvious symptoms, and touches their nose or mouth and afterwards the door handle, they leave viruses on the handle. You come along and touch the handle to open the door and the viruses are now on your hand. Touching your hand to your nose or your mouth leads the virus right to where it wants to be.
Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your pocket and use it every time you touch something that other people may have touched.
Be conscious of how many times you touch your face. And stop doing it.
Many grocery stores now provide disinfectant wipes to be used on the grocery carts. Most doors now open automatically so it’s not necessary to touch any handles. When you’re in the store, apply hand sanitizer after checking out. Both the cashier and courtesy help have contact with hundreds of customers each day.
You may be diligent about washing your hands but other members of your family may not be, especially children. Wipe down counters, door handles, and telephone mouth pieces, with a disinfectant. Keyboards are more of a challenge but should be disinfected as well. Careful use of rubbing alcohol works as it evaporates quickly. Household bleach is an effective inexpensive disinfectant. Use one part bleach to 10 parts water. Vinegar is a natural alternative but not quite as powerful as bleach.
Recent studies tried to determine how long the virus can survive on different surfaces. They found that the virus was able to survive up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. Of course, the probability of infection is gradually getting less over this time period. They found also that the virus was able to remain airborne for up to 3 hours when they used a nebulizer to blow the virus into the air. In a real-life scenario, it is though highly improbable for the virus to stay airborne for such a long time. And because of the laws of aerodynamics, it is still more unlikely for this droplet to install on your clothes.
One possible transmission route is via our shoes. If somebody sneezes on the floor, our shoes are able to pick it up and carry to our home. If possible, take off your shoes as soon as you come home and leave them on the porch. If that does not work, leave them right at the entrance of your home and don’t touch them until you are leaving home again.
Clothes can also harbor infectious droplets. If you are all day out in a high contamination area, or somebody was sneezing at you, you should consider changing clothes when you come home. Either put them into the washer or hang them out in the sun, that will kill off the bacteria.
Strengthen Your Immune System
There is one important parameter that the government agencies widely ignore in their prevention campaigns, and that is the force of our immune system. While social isolation measures can reduce the demand of intensive care units to a third, it should be possible to reduce the demand to maybe one tenth, if systematic efforts to strengthen the immune system of the population were in place.
Our body has a marvelous army of soldiers that are ready to defend us from bacterial and viral intruders. We have within us an army of about one trillion white blood cells, which form a highly specialized task force that works around the clock, to identify and combat any intruder that tries to infect us. If the immune system is in peak shape, it has an easy job to combat almost any intruder, including the COVID-19 coronavirus. On the other hand, if we do not take care of our lifestyle habits, our immune system will suffer greatly and we will be left with a highly compromised army to protect us.
Fortunately, we do not need to wait for government regulations to start boosting our immune system. There is much that we can do to be protected when the virus is all around us. This subject is so important, and there is so much that we can do to strengthen our immune system, that I am dedicating an entire article just on this subject. Take your health into your own hands and be sure to implement immune-boosting habits into your lives.
I don’t know your religion, but if you believe in God, this is the time to exercise your faith. With so much uncertainty around us, many are entering in panic mode. You can prevent that if you believe that you have a Heavenly Father who is able to take good care of you. After having done our part, we need to have faith that He is not going to leave you alone. How often have you been in a crisis in the past, but it all worked out fine at the end? Meeting the crisis with a positive attitude can help you a lot to be victorious.
Moments of crisis like this are good opportunities to reflect on our faith values. Is my faith something for real, or am I just acting as a nominal Christian? How do I find inner peace in the midst of a crisis? Maybe it would be the right moment to step aside and have an honest talk with God. What is in your heart? What are your worries and fears?
Consider these words of Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life?… So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” Matthew 6:25-34
Think about the past. How often have you been in a tight spot, but looking back you can see clearly how God was taking care of every need. The Christian author Ellen White stated one time: “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”
We have a special opportunity just for you. If you want to receive practical and up to date advice on how to implement an immunity-boosting lifestyle, simply join the Coronavirus Immunity Challenge and prepare yourself to face the pandemic with a bullet-proof immune system.
Coronavirus Immunity Challenge
Animated simulations explaining how to flatten the curve
WHO Worldwide COVID-19 Statistics
Worldometer Worldwide Covid-19 Statistics
CDC US Disease Map
Sermon: How to thrive in a time of crisis – Mark Finley
Viral Kindness – Find a Facebook support group near you and get involved in helping others
Martin Neumann was trained in Lifesyle Medicine in 1998 at Wildwood Lifestyle Center & Hospital. Since then he has lectured in different part of the world about a healthy lifestyle and natural remedies. He is the founder of the Abundant Health website.