Yesterday, I posted What You Need To Know About Coronavirus & 15 Tips For Staying Safe, and since then, my message boxes have been flooded with questions! So please, read the original blog if you haven’t already, then make sure you’re on my newsletter list (sign up here) if you want to make sure you get the latest updates. I’m tracking the situation and will do my best to keep you all informed.
How are COVID-19 and the flu (influenza virus) the same and different?
Both cause fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. Both may cause vomiting and diarrhea. Both can cause shortness of breath and lead to severe lung disease and, in rare cases, death. Both can be spread from person to person through droplets in the air from an infected person who is coughing, sneezing or talking. It is unclear with COVID-19 whether infectious particles stick around in the air after the infected person leaves. Both seem to be capable of spreading several days before symptoms in the infected person start. Neither virus responds to antibiotics.
Both are typically treated with supportive measures, aimed at symptom relief. If severe lung infection occurs, hospitalization and mechanical ventilation may be required. Typically, this extreme outcome happens in more immune-compromised individuals. Antiviral medication is sometimes used for people with the flu. We don’t know yet whether antiviral drugs work for COVID-19.
Prevention for both is similar—wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands (and review the other tips in the 15 Tips For Staying Safe here). Stay home if you’re sick so you don’t give it to others. And steer clear of those who are known to be infected. The flu has a vaccine, but no vaccine is currently available for COVID-19.
So far, we have about 80,000 cases of COVID-19 reported since the outbreak started. 60 are in the US as of today. The flu is estimated to have caused 1 billion cases worldwide. There are between 9.3 million to 45 million cases in the U.S. per year.
The death rate of COVID-19 is difficult to ascertain since it’s so new. So far, 2,810 deaths have been reported worldwide. No deaths have occurred in the US as of today. The flu has caused 291,000 to 646,000 deaths worldwide and causes 12,000- 61,000 deaths in the U.S. per year.
Is COVID-19 more deadly than the flu?
That’s hard to compare. Every year, the flu virus mutates and is different. That’s why the flu vaccine has to change every year. Historically, flu epidemics have had death rates as high as 50% and as low as this year’s 0.05% death rate (according to CDC data of US flu cases this year so far). It’s still early to calculate a mortality rate for COVID-19. But from what we can tell so far, the death rate is 2-3%. Just to put this into perspective, the mortality rate of ebolavirus is 50%. So at least this year, in the US, COVID-19 appears to be more deadly than the flu, but it’s not ebolavirus.
What’s going on with COVID-19 In California? Should I be worried if I live in California or am planning a trip there?
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so this is relevant to me and my loved ones, as well as anyone who is planning to travel to California. The CDC first reported a case of community spread COVID-19 on Wednesday in Solano County, which is east of Napa Valley and west of Sacramento. The patient was diagnosed and treated at UC Davis hospital and has now been transferred to San Mateo County. The diagnosis was delayed by 11 days because this patient did not meet CDC criteria for testing. Until this case, the only people getting tested for coronavirus were those that met CDC criteria. CDC recommendations as of 2/14/20 were “Health care providers should contact their local/state health department immediately to notify them of patients with fever and lower respiratory illness who traveled to Wuhan, China within 14 days of symptom onset.” For obvious reasons, health care providers are not testing every single person with a snotty nose for coronavirus, so this patient did not get tested until the situation got dire. Officials are working hard to try to figure out how this patient got it, but so far, we don’t know, which is alarming because it makes it hard to quarantine those who might have infected this patient.
What does this case of “community spread” really mean?
Any time there is a novel infection, meaning that public health officials have not seen it before in humans, the CDC, WHO, and other agencies do their very best to contain it. COVID-19 is a novel infection. We’ve seen other coronaviruses, like SARS, but this one is new. If officials catch a new virus early enough, they can sometimes track it back to Patient Zero and quarantine everyone who has been exposed to that patient, preventing it from spreading into a pandemic. If quarantine is successful, novel infections often just die off and we may never see them again.
Until now, officials thought they had been successful in containing this infection, which is why the Diamond Princess cruise ship was monitored so closely. But now, because of this new patient, Pandora’s box has now opened. What that means is containment has failed. Officials are doing their best to find out how this patient got exposed, but it is still unknown.
Until this case, all other cases in the United States arose from some sort of connection to mainland China. This patient has not been to China or been exposed to anyone who has, so this means someone who is not quarantined may be walking around with the virus, thinking they have a mild cold or flu. Because it took a while to diagnose this patient, health care workers were exposed. The problem is that California only has 200 testing kits, which is now deemed inadequate to try to contain this virus.
Who needs to be tested?
The CDC has not changed it’s testing guidelines as of the time I’m writing this blog. (You can read the updated guidelines here.) But it’s possible because of this new community spread case that officials will need to start testing anyone, at least in Solano County, who shows COVID-19 like symptoms, which are vague and very similar to common cold and flu symptoms. Because California lacks enough tests to make this possible, the governor and the CDC are working to try to rectify this problem.
What are we calling this virus?
The CDC just grew a culture of what they’re calling severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 “SARS-CoV-2.” SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus that causes the illness they’re calling COVID-19.
I’m pregnant and planning a trip to California. Is it still safe to go?
When you’re pregnant, your immune system is in flux and you’re relatively immunosuppressed compared to when you’re not pregnant (so you don’t fight your baby as a foreign body). So if you’re pregnant, you’re at greater risk of contracting any infectious disease, and if you do get infected, the disease can be more virulent, which is why we often hospitalize pregnant women who get the flu, just to be extra safe.
All that aside, is it safe to come to California? Well . . . containment has failed. But so far, there’s only one CDC reported case of community spread of this virus and it’s in Solano County. No other reported cases have occurred that weren’t contracted from travelers who had exposure to China. So the risk of contracting this virus still seems to be very very low. But it’s impossible to say what’s going to happen in the next few weeks here. This is why it’s good to have a clear connection with what I call your “Inner Pilot Light.” It’s good to gather clear, objective information and include your rational mind when making decisions. But it’s also critical to include your intuition and other ways of knowing, especially when it comes to pregnancy or health—related issues. My book The Daily Flame is all about deepening this connection to other ways of knowing. Or you can “pay what you can” to take my online Connect To Your Inner Pilot Light program here.
Reread the other blog too about the 15 ways to stay safe—so you can optimize all the ways to keep yourself and your baby safe during any outbreak. If you do come to California, enjoy! It’s scary how beautiful the weather is right now (yikes, climate change).
Are public health officials lying to us?
There are conspiracy theories floating around suggesting that public health officials aren’t telling us the whole truth in order to keep stock markets from crashing any more than they already are and that far more people are sick and dying than reports indicate. I have no way of knowing whether these conspiracies are true. But I do know that conspiracies sell ad space and get lots of attention in the media.
I’m scared. What can I do?
Well, definitely don’t go Google searching conspiracy theories! They feed off your fear and panic, which activates stress responses in your body and makes you more vulnerable to contracting infections during an outbreak. If you read my book The Fear Cure, you’ll see all the data proving that unchecked fear and unhealthy panic can literally kill you. It is possible that more people will die from unhealthy (and currently unfounded) panic than from this novel virus. If you feel scared, anxious, or panicked, read Karla McLaren’s The Language of Emotions in order to learn how to channel those natural human emotions in a healthy way so they can move and not get stuck in your system in ways that can harm your health. Or read her blog about fear here. Karla says all emotions are “Action-Requiring Neurological Programs.” You can learn how to receive the gifts from every emotion so they can move through you and avoid getting repressed or expressed in unhealthy ways that can make you mentally or physically sick.
Remember how much everyone panicked about the 2009 swine flu pandemic? This situation could have a similar trajectory now that efforts to contain the virus appear to have failed (because of what’s happening in California). But that outbreak ended in 2010. And hopefully this one will end soon too.
Remind me what actually happened with swine flu?
According to the CDC, “CDC estimated that 151,700-575,400 people worldwide died from (H1N1) pdm09 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated. Globally, 80 percent of (H1N1) pdm09 virus-related deaths were estimated to have occurred in people younger than 65 years of age. This differs greatly from typical seasonal influenza epidemics, during which about 70 percent to 90 percent of deaths are estimated to occur in people 65 years and older.
Though the 2009 flu pandemic primarily affected children and young and middle-aged adults, the impact of the (H1N1 ) pdm09 virus on the global population during the first year was less severe than that of previous pandemics. Estimates of pandemic influenza mortality ranged from 0.03 percent of the world’s population during the 1968 H3N2 pandemic to 1 percent to 3.
I’m still scared. What can I do to stay safe?
Let me repeat what I said in yesterday’s blog in case you didn’t read it. As I explain in great physiological detail in Mind Over Medicine, people don’t just get infections. They have to be vulnerable to them. If you have a lack of certain antibodies- because it’s a novel virus—you may be more vulnerable to this kind of infection than to other infections, which you may already have immunity against. In other words, we’re all exposed to pathogens all day, every day. Those pathogens only overtake our mighty and powerful immune system protection if our ability to fend them off has weakened for some reason. New viruses are problematic because we lack antibodies to them. But we can be proactive about trying to boost our body’s ability to fight off a new virus if we do get exposed.
Why might one exposed person get infected and another doesn’t?
Remember that exposure does not equal infection. We don’t yet know how contagious this virus is, meaning that we don’t know the exact percentage of people who are exposed and get sick versus those who are exposed and don’t get sick. Some viruses are very easy to catch (like ebolavirus) and others are relatively hard to catch (like HIV.) Some people are more vulnerable to begin with, like elderly folks or people who are on immunosuppressant drugs. Novel viruses are problematic because they are more likely to infect people who are otherwise immuno-competent, like otherwise young, healthy people. Even still, not every exposed person will get infected. That’s the territory of where you can be proactive about protecting yourself.
Why might you be more vulnerable if you’re otherwise young, healthy, and not taking immunosuppressants? The most common hidden reason for immune system weakening is chronic repetitive stress response, which disables the immune system, as the grandmamma of psychoneuroimmunology Candace Pert, PhD so brilliantly explains in The Molecules of Emotion. This is not “woo,” folks. This is science. Your thoughts, beliefs, feelings, untreated traumas, and unhealthily repressed emotions can make you vulnerable to getting sick during an outbreak, and the physiology of how this happens is very well understood by mainstream scientists.
This is not to suggest that people who get sick during an outbreak are in some way to blame. I’m not saying they’re not enlightened enough or healed enough or any of that “law of attraction” nonsense. We all have trauma in our systems, myself included, and that trauma makes us vulnerable. I’m just saying there is something we can do about setting ourselves up to be less vulnerable to getting sick in times like this. Learning to work with your emotions and clear your traumas and inaccurate beliefs is as important as eating well, sleeping enough, and moving your body when it comes to disease prevention.
It’s always worth doing this deep inner work—whether there’s an outbreak or not, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that learning to work with emotions like fear and anger, and getting treatment for unhealed trauma, and being proactive about relaxation response inducing practices is VERY PRACTICAL PREVENTIVE MEDICINE that can prevent life-threatening diseases, not just COVID-19 but cancer, heart disease, and stroke. If you like to nerd out on data like I do, read my books Mind Over Medicine and The Fear Cure. Also read Karla McLaren’s The Language of Emotions and learn to practice Internal Family Systems (IFS), which I wrote about here. I’m writing about Karla’s work and IFS in Sacred Medicine, and it’s no joke that these ways of working with scared parts may help you stay safe even more so than washing your hands during an outbreak.
Now take a deep breath and see if you can find that moment of peace at the end of every out breath that my mentor Rachel Naomi Remen, MD always draws our attention to when we’re meditating with her. Rest there. And pass this blog onto anyone you know who might be panicking.
How can I stay updated with reliable information when things are changing so fast?
I’ll do my best to keep you all updated while also trying to meet my book deadline for Sacred Medicine: A Doctor’s Quest To Unravel The Mysteries of Miraculous Healing, which is due soon and will be published by Sounds True Fall 2021. If you want to make sure you get the latest updates on COVID-19, sign up for my newsletter here.
Wishing you all optimal health and peace of mind and heart,
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