The positive steps we are taking to prevent disease might have a negative side effect.
- A new study out of Princeton suggests that measures to prevent COVID-19 are also preventing certain other diseases.
- The nature of seasonal diseases means that people who avoid them this year may just be putting it off, leading to a large wave later.
- These estimates don't mean we should be less preventive now, only that we must be sure to take care in the future.
Why you should still wear a mask<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc3NDYzNS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMzc1ODM1Nn0.UNIHh2X2AtR6fq_fhAwejphFKIOY9J3lGFWgDf-R6oE/img.jpg?width=980" id="d681e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1dc1e7ee8c2f01ac128b4b48c1675510" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="960" data-height="1280" />
A chart from another study on the effectiveness of masks and lockdowns. The grey line in the bottom two marks when mask mandates were imposed.
Credit: Zhang, Li, Zhang, and Molina<p><br>Again, before you decide that this means mask mandates are just delaying some kind of reckoning, we can look at the numbers. Several <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/07/coronavirus-deadlier-than-many-believed-infection-fatality-rate-cvd/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sources</a> agree <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">that</a> the <a href="https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">coronavirus</a> is <a href="https://www.livescience.com/covid-19-vs-flu-deaths-hospitalized-patients.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">deadlier</a> than <a href="https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/flu-kills-more-people-covid-19/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the </a><a href="https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/flu-kills-more-people-covid-19/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flu</a><a href="https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/flu-kills-more-people-covid-19/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">.</a> We also don't have a vaccine for it yet, unlike for the flu, and keeping yourself and others from getting sick now remains extremely important for keeping people alive. </p><p> A friend of mine remarked at the beginning of the pandemic that certain events in society leave marks on the people in it, much like growth rings on a tree showing years of drought decades after it occurred. If the findings of this study are accurate, then COVID-19 will leave rings visible in seasonal outbreaks over the next few years alongside the slew of others it will create. <br></p><p>Given what this study shows us and the hard-learned lessons we have about what happens when you don't listen to scientists, maybe we'll do a better job at controlling those potential epidemics.</p>
- A lot of hype surrounds vitamins and minerals for treating or preventing COVID-19, though little evidence exists.
- Vitamins C and D and zinc may help boost the body's response to the coronavirus, but likely only if you're deficient.
- Dozens of studies are currently investigating the potential use of these supplements on COVID-19 patients.
Can vitamin D help fight COVID-19?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fefdc4c878af3febac545b6911ac1b66"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q2nXgeJSJrc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Evidence for adding more of these vitamins on top of a balanced diet (and barring any deficiencies) is thin, however. Humans have long held a fascination with the idea that more is better. In the case of essential vitamins, it's all about balance. </p><p>A number of pro-vitamin D articles have been bouncing around social media. The argument: quarantining humans results in them not getting enough sunlight, which compromises their vitamin D levels. These opinion pieces are generally arguing against shutdowns, using this heavily-studied supplement as a wedge. </p><p>Vitamin D certainly helps your immune system. Deficiencies <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3308600/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are linked</a> to increased risk and severity of viral infections: "Interventional and observational epidemiological studies provide evidence that vitamin D deficiency may confer increased risk of influenza and respiratory tract infection." One <a href="https://eje.bioscientifica.com/view/journals/eje/183/5/EJE-20-0665.xml" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> has linked vitamin D deficiency to difficulties fending off COVID-19. </p><p>If your body produces enough vitamin D, however, you don't need more. As Susan Lanham-New at the University of Surrey in England, <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-supplements-vitamins-what-we-know" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">says</a> "If you have enough vitamin D in your body, the evidence doesn't stack up to say that giving you more will make a real difference." Since too much of this vitamin has a negative impact, you want to keep your levels around 600-800 IU per day. Spending <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-from-sun#:~:text=Regular%20sun%20exposure%20is%20the,your%20skin%20is%20to%20sunlight." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 to 30 minutes outside a day</a>, a few days a week, is enough to satisfy requirements. Fish (such as salmon, trout, and swordfish) and fortified milk products also <a href="https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/appendix-12/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">help you reach</a> these levels. </p><p>Thus far, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246103/" target="_blank">studies</a> have shown that people deficient in vitamin D could use a boost. There are currently over a dozen studies testing high-doses of vitamin D in newly infected volunteers. As no results have been published, the verdict is still out.</p>
Photo: Right 3 / Adobe Stock<p>Zinc has also been making the rounds, especially in conjunction with other treatments. If you regularly consume oysters, red meat, poultry, or beans, your body is likely sated. Taking zinc while you have a cold <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457799/" target="_blank">seems to help out</a> (provided you take it at the onset of the illness). Zinc lozenges <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/10/1/e031662" target="_blank">don't fare as well</a>.</p><p>Zinc was on everyone's mind as an additive to hydroxychloroquine. While the latter treatment <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/covid-19-coronavirus-hydroxychloroquine-no-evidence-treatment" target="_blank">didn't live up</a> to the hype, zinc supplementation <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2020.01712/full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">bestows immune benefits</a> based on SARS research (which is also a coronavirus). At the moment, it <a href="https://www.ccjm.org/content/early/2020/06/08/ccjm.87a.ccc046" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">appears</a> that zinc reduces the duration of COVID-19, though not the severity of symptoms. Loading up isn't the best idea, as too much zinc <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-Consumer/#:~:text=Signs%20of%20too%20much%20zinc,the%20%22good%22%20cholesterol)." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">could cause</a> nausea, vomiting, stomach problems, and if taken for an extended duration, lower immunity. But if you start to feel sick, zinc might not be a bad idea. </p><p>Linus Pauling famously—some would say <a href="https://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7547741/vitamin-c-myth-pauling" target="_blank">infamously</a>—touted the benefits of vitamin C. The two-time Nobel Prize winner went a bit overboard with his passion for this vitamin. That said, due to his work, vitamin C is now extensively studied (and sometimes overused). </p><p>The popular antioxidant provides an immune boost and reduced inflammation, both important when you're battling a virus. While you can take supplements, plenty of fruits and vegetables contain what you need. </p><p>Experts <a href="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-supplements-vitamins-what-we-know" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warn</a> that studies on vitamin C produce contradictory results. As an inexpensive intervention, upping your levels when you have a cold can't really hurt. A dozen or so studies are currently looking at the possibility of using vitamin C to treat COVID patients. As with the previous supplements, too much vitamin C produces unwanted side effects. In the coming months, researchers will have a clearer idea of its potential role in COVID-19 treatment. </p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His new book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
The new strain of coronavirus that has spread across Asia is causing concern ahead of China's Lunar New Year.
- A new strain of the coronavirus — similar to SARS — is spreading across China and to nearby countries, including the U.S..
- Although it's relatively early on, the virus appears to be fairly infectious and capable of human-to-human transmission, a serious concern given the many travelers expected to visit China for the upcoming Lunar New Year.
- The World Health Organization intends to convene an emergency committee in the near future to determine whether the outbreak should be considered a public health emergency of international concern.
A new coronavirus<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5NzEzMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NTk1OTg0NH0.14IUn9DLTCkD-vnqXUAlCPOkdMrwFSF6VR5XzbnaHqM/img.jpg?width=980" id="d59f6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="af677aaa3088023d298de6c245fc767c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Wuhan coronavirus" />
A photo of the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, which has been linked to several cases of the coronavirus.
Getty Images<p>The virus resembles SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which killed 774 people in 2002 and 2003 across several Asian countries. Like SARS, the new virus is a coronavirus, so-named because of the bulbous projections encircling the viroid that resemble a royal crown or a solar corona. The Wuhan coronavirus, dubbed <em>2019-nCoV</em>, appears to be an entirely novel strain that has not been detected in humans before. Scientists believe that the virus's primary source was an animal, but it is clear now that the virus is capable of spreading between humans, causing fever, shortness of breath, a cough, and other respiratory issues. </p><p>There is evidence to suggest that the disease could be highly infectious as well; one patient is believed to have infected 14 medical professionals in the hospital where they were being treated.</p>
China's and the WHO's response<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTE0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODk4NjIzMH0.CZDtlFh_ayJ4FXeDtNXhTQza7Dpni-2H-JIKnfcQaXo/img.jpg?width=980" id="2cc39" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="32f52a537e4f23ce86c64eee0518e7c1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="microscopic view of coronavirus by the CDC" />
Handout photo from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows a microscopic view of the coronavirus. According to the CDC.
(Photo by CDC/Getty Images)<p>Although some have criticized the Chinese response as being sluggish, it has acted far more quickly than it did during the 2002 SARS outbreak. After the SARS virus first appeared, the Communist Party of China discouraged state media from reporting on the virus and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/27/world/china-raises-tally-of-cases-and-deaths-in-mystery-illness.html" target="_blank">delayed in reporting information</a> to the World Health Organization (WHO) for months.</p><p>That being said, there is some concern that the Chinese government is underreporting the figures associated with the disease. In an interview with <em><a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/18/asia/china-coronavirus-study-intl/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a></em>, researcher Neil Ferguson claimed that the number of cases outside of China suggest that more individuals are infected than is being reported. "We calculate," he said, "based on flight and population data, that there is only a 1 in 574 chance that a person infected in Wuhan would travel overseas before they sought medical care. This implies there might have been over 1,700 cases in Wuhan so far."</p><p>"There are many unknowns," continued Ferguson, "meaning the uncertainty range around this estimate goes from 190 cases to over 4,000. But the magnitude of these numbers suggests that substantial human-to-human transmission cannot be ruled out. Heightened surveillance, prompt information sharing and enhanced preparedness are recommended."</p><p>The WHO plans to convene an emergency committee on January 22<sup>nd</sup> to determine whether the outbreak can be considered a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, which is <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/what-are-the-international-health-regulations-and-emergency-committees" target="_blank">defined</a> as "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response." A similar determination was made regarding the 2002 SARS outbreak.</p><p>Under <a href="https://journals.openedition.org/poldev/2178" target="_blank">international health regulations</a>, the declaration of a PHEIC requires states to respond quickly to the emergency. While it is characterized as a last resort, declaring a PHEIC in and of itself offers the WHO few powers beyond the ability to form an advisory <a href="https://www.who.int/ihr/procedures/pheic/en/" target="_blank">emergency committee</a> on the crisis.</p><p>Given that Wuhan is a city of 11 million people and that the virus has already spread beyond China's borders, such a declaration seems merited. With a PHEIC in place, hopefully the WHO will be able to work with the Chinese government to minimize the spread of the disease prior to the upcoming <a href="https://foreignpolicy.com/2020/01/20/virus-china-coverup-government-how-scared-should-you-be-of-the-wuhan-coronavirus/" target="_blank">Lunar New Year</a>.</p>
A notice for passengers from Wuhan, China is displayed near a quarantine station at Narita airport in Japan. Japan's Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare recently confirmed its first case of pneumonia infected with a new coronavirus from Wuhan City, China.
Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images
A new study indicates that the brain can detect and help avoid diseases in others through the senses of sight and smell alone.
Humans are way better at detecting and avoiding sick people than previously thought. So good, in fact, that our brains can detect disease in others before it even breaks out.