- This newsletter picks up where my 2/27/20 newsletter on COVID-19 left off
- It deals with the major questions about COVID-19 I’ve received since I wrote that newsletter
- It then corrects some of the misconceptions people have about cytokine storms
- And finishes with a set of concrete steps you can take to prepare yourself for a long-term future with COVID-19
Back in February, I took time off from working on the next edition of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, to write up a detailed newsletter on COVID-19 . I thought it would cover the issue for a while but apparently not. Even though virtually nothing substantive has changed since that newsletter, it seems that confusion and panic (nee concern) has only continued to grow. Because so many people wrote into the Foundation with questions since that newsletter, I now have a good sense of where that confusion lies and what’s contributed to it and what questions need to be addressed. So, let me begin by saying that if you haven’t already read that 2/27 newsletter, you should start there. I’m not going to go over the same ground in this newsletter but, rather, address the questions that have emerged since then.
You said the mortality rate for COVID-19 was 2.3%, but since then I’ve heard all different kinds of numbers, some higher, some lower. What’s happening?
What I also said in the newsletter was, “Ultimately, as more people are tested, the real mortality rate may end up somewhat less than 2.3%, but it will still be several times higher than the numbers for seasonal flu.” And that’s the scenario we’re seeing play out. Let me give you a simple example. If we identify 100 people with the virus, and 2 of them die, that’s a 2% mortality rate. Simple enough. But what if there were also another 100 people who had the virus, but because their symptoms were so mild, they never got tested, so they wouldn’t show up in the statistics. But what if a week later, more test kits become available and we’re finally able to test that second group of 100. Now we have the same 2 people dying, but with 200 people having got the virus. We’ve doubled the number of infected, but our mortality rate has dropped in half to 1%. Nothing changed with the actual numbers. We just have better, more extensive testing so the numbers “look” different. Testing and/or lack of it explain the wildly varying mortality numbers from the 3-4% reported by WHO to the 0.7% reported in South Korea. Or as WHO itself stated.
“Mortality for COVID-19 appears higher than for influenza, especially seasonal influenza. While the true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand, the data we have so far indicate that the crude mortality ratio (the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases) is between 3-4%, the infection mortality rate (the number of reported deaths divided by the number of (actual, Ed.) infections) will be lower.”
Better testing reveals higher numbers of infected people. South Korea, for example, in exchange for having the lowest death ratio, has the second-highest number of Covid-19 infections after China. We can see how this works in our example above. Nothing actually changed in terms of how many people were really infected, but our numbers of infected doubled from 100 to 200 because better testing uncovered more of them. And here’s where the media comes into play in terms of spreading panic and confusion. The headline almost writes itself, “Incidence of coronavirus doubles overnight!”
One other thing to keep in mind is that although COVID-19 has the potential to infect 3 billion people worldwide, that won’t happen this month, or the next, or the next. For those numbers, we’re talking cumulatively over one, two, or more years. And considering that we’re likely to have a vaccine in 18 months or so and more effective treatments before that, we may never reach that level of infection and mortality. The numbers will still be large, just not that large. Unfortunately, if you’re prone to panic every time you hear that numbers are climbing, it’s going to be a long two years for you.
Now, there are two other things to keep in mind.
- Even at the lowest mortality rate seen so far, South Korea’s 0.7%, 0.007 times 3 billion is still a big number.
- But keep in mind that the common flu kills 600,000 people each and every year. Multiply that by the number of years you’ve been alive and that too is a very big number. But you’re still here. You haven’t died. And how many people do you personally know, or know of, who have died from the flu? In other words, it’s a big world, and even though your chances of eventually “contracting” COVID-19 are very good, your chances, and the chances of anyone you know, dying from COVID-19 are very, very, very low. In fact, your chances of dying in the next three years from heart disease or cancer or accidental death or even physician error are much higher than your chances of dying from COVID-19. So again, don’t panic. The vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 end up with mild to moderate flu-like symptoms–and then it’s gone.
They’re now telling anyone over 60 to buy supplies and stay indoors. Is that real?
In the last newsletter, I explained how the virus plays out for most people. Based on the original numbers, about 81% of cases are mild (either no symptoms or very mild), 14% are severe (like a heavy duty cold or the flu), and 5% are critical requiring hospitalization. And about half of that 5% who go critical die. As more testing comes through, though, the percentage of those who go critical is dropping significantly–from 5%, to less than 2%, which means the true mortality rate is more likely going to end up below 1%.
That said, although COVID-19 can infect everyone, the sick and elderly are more prone to developing complications due to their weaker immune systems.
For that reason, the CDC has now recommended that anyone over 60, and especially over 80, or with underlying health issues should “stay close to home” and “minimize trips to the store.” In other words, stock up on what you need and hide out at home. Specifically, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommended that the highest-risk people and their families stock up on “enough household items and groceries so that you will be prepared to stay home for a period of time.” She also said that in addition to stocking up on household goods, seniors should “have supplies on hand like routine medications for blood pressure and diabetes, and over-the-counter medicines and medical supplies to treat fever and other symptoms.”
The reason, of course, that they are recommending that seniors go underground is that seniors tend to have weaker immune systems. But that doesn’t have to be true. Yes, as the cells of your body age, they become senescent, less functional. But it is possible to reverse at least some of that senescence. And it’s absolutely possible to completely refresh key aspects of your immune system. Additionally, the problem with the hide in your house approach is (considering that COVID-19 looks like it will be with us for some time) how long can people hide out in their homes?
(We’re going to talk about a different option for seniors later in the newsletter.)
They tell us not to wear masks, but won’t masks protect us?
Probably not. The cheaper surgical face masks won’t stop the virus at all. The more expensive N95 respirators, which do work if used properly, are uncomfortable, restrict breathing, and difficult to wear for long periods of time. Also, the authorities would prefer you don’t buy them so they’re available for health workers in direct contact with infected patients. If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection. It also makes sense to wear a mask if you are sick and coughing or sneezing to stop your spray from drifting out and infecting others.
That said, keep in mind that masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. The reason is simple. Once you take your mask, off you’re vulnerable to infection the moment you touch your face with your hands. And where might that infection on your hands come from? Well, how about from the outward facing surface of the mask that you just took off? In truth, the primary benefit of the cheaper masks is that they stop you from touching your nose and mouth–but not your eyes.
Finally, if you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly. In the end, a mask won’t keep you from getting infected, but if used properly, it should minimize your chances of infecting others and could push their infection down the road, which isn’t a bad thing.
They tell us to constantly wash our hands. Will that protect me?
Like masks, handwashing will push out the time of infection, but not necessarily prevent it. Given enough time, and COVID-19 looks like it’s here to stay with us for years, the virus will ultimately find a way to get you. But pushing it out is a good thing. The longer it takes for you to get infected the more likely it is that the medical community will have better treatments and even a vaccine.
When it comes to washing your hands, soap and water is the best thing to use; you just have to wash long enough–about 20 seconds.
As for hand sanitizers, they’ve got to be at least 60% isopropyl alcohol to work. And 70% is even better. However, I have a problem with hand sanitizers. Like antibiotics, they lack discrimination. Isopropyl alcohol is a general disinfectant. In other words, it will not only eliminate any viruses on your hands, it will also eliminate any beneficial bacteria that are there as part of your microbiome. And one of the things that beneficial bacteria do on your skin is crowd out pathogens such as MRSA so that they have no space to replicate. If you use hand sanitizers, you’re also wiping out one of your first lines of defense against pathogens like MRSA. Bad pizza!
They keep talking about quarantines and avoiding crowds to contain the virus. Can the virus really be contained by quarantines?
Let me be perfectly clear here; quarantining people who have tested positive for the virus makes all the sense in the world. It will absolutely stop the virus from spreading–from that one source. However, it will not stop the virus from spreading overall. In short, large-scale testing combined with quarantines can be an effective tool in slowing the virus down. That’s important. In addition to “creating time” for researchers to develop better treatments and vaccines, it spreads out the infection rate so that hospitals are less likely to be overwhelmed and can better handle the influx of patients. Self-quarantining because you “think” you might have the virus and large-scale quarantines without testing will be much less effective. But again, in either case, you’re not stopping the virus, you’re merely slowing its spread. Epidemiologists talk about it in terms of “flattening the curve.” Unfortunately, news headlines often fail to make that distinction and talk about quarantines “containing” the virus. But any containment is likely to be short-term and localized. Contain it in South Korea, and it will pop up in Iran. Contain it in New York and it will pop up in California. It’s a bit like whack-a-mole. Every time you contain the virus in one location it will pop up in another. And there’s only so long you can hold large segments of a population, or even an entire country for that matter (can you say Italy?), in lockdown. It’s financially impossible.
Quarantine sporting events and large assemblies and what happens to the jobs of those who maintain those facilities, or clean them? What happens to all the people who sell food and souvenirs at events? Microsoft is telling all its workers to work from home. What happens to the people who maintain their building? What happens to all the people who clean it? What happens to all the office supply companies that have contracted to keep it running? What happens to all the restaurants and coffee shops that cater to the thousands or workers who are no longer coming to work? And what about cruise ships? I’ve never taken a cruise–not my thing–but it’s a $45 billion a year industry. Yes, governments are talking about giving financial relief to the cruise line companies, but what about the tens of thousands of workers in the industry. Who’s going to take care of them? If COVID-19 continues indefinitely, and the response is quarantine after quarantine, how is any of this sustainable?
And the answer is: long-term quarantines are simply not sustainable. Think about it for a moment. That’s the reason we don’t enforce quarantines for seasonal flu, even though it kills some 55,000 people every year in the US alone.
And here’s a point that no one in the media talks about, and this astonishes me! The moment you let up on the quarantine, the virus can reenter your community and start the cycle all over again. There’s a reason epidemiologists are saying COVID-19 is here to stay. If you’ve ever read Edgar Alan Poe’s Masque of Red Death, one thing you’d realize is that you can’t hide your way out of a pandemic.
And as for those who are self-quarantining, or being forcibly quarantined without testing, here’s another point the media isn’t talking about. If you don’t actually have the virus when you’re under quarantine, after the quarantine, you’re no safer than you were before you went into lockdown. You haven’t gained any immunity to COVID-19 while hiding out in your wife’s she-shed. Unless you’re infected with COVID-19 while in exile, it’s not a one-and-done. The hard reality is that once you emerge from your quarantine, you’re even more at risk than before your act of self-sacrifice for the simple reason that this is now officially a pandemic, and it’s spreading rapidly. That means that after your two-week lockdown has passed, there are that many more people with the virus walking about, so you’re that much more likely to come in contact, yet again, with someone who has the virus.
Talking heads on the news are telling me I need to stock up. What should I stock up on?
First of all, don’t hoard.
- It’s greedy
- It denies other people a chance to get what they need
- It’s ultimately useless since we’re now talking about COVID-19 being around for years.
You’ll want some basic supplies to cover you for two weeks in case you personally or your neighborhood is placed under mandatory quarantine–or your choose to self-quarantine. Obviously, that includes some food and certainly any medications you might need. But do you really need a two-year supply of toilet paper? Think before you hoard. Buy only what you need. And remember to rotate it regularly. In other words, use the food periodically and replace it so it’s still edible when you need it.
There’s nothing special about COVID-19 in this regard. In California, this is SOP because a good earthquake can disrupt access to goods and supplies for several days. If you live in a flood plain or tornado country, you face the same issue. A disaster could leave you without access to stores that sell food and water for days. Heck, on the East coast, a severe winter storm can throw you into lockdown for days at a time. The same principle applies.
So, don’t panic buy. Why am I making such a point of this? Because people hoard when they’re afraid. For example, even though I told people there was no need to panic in my last newsletter, and I never mentioned any product by name (deliberately), a large number of people who had never ever been to Baseline Nutritionals before figured out what company I formulated for and which of my formulas worked as an anti-pathogen. As a result, they bought up six-months of Baseline’s inventory of that particular formula in just the last three weeks. Unfortunately, not being familiar with the principles of the Baseline of Health, they stocked up on just the last line of defense, while skipping the frontline defenses–which we’ll get to in a moment.
Anyway, here’s a good article in the HuffPost for how to stock up for two weeks of home quarantine without rushing out to Costco and overbuying bulk-wrapped products: Grocery Shopping For A Quarantine: What To Buy And How Much.
Cytokine Storm, Correcting Some Misconceptions
From the questions I’ve received, there appear to be several misunderstandings about cytokine storms, what causes them, and who’s at risk. So, let’s try and explain it again but taking a different route.
When the immune system is fighting pathogens in the lungs (since we’re talking about COVID-19, we’ll focus on the lungs), cytokines signal immune cells such as T-cells and macrophages to travel to the site of infection, in this case the lungs. Additionally, cytokines activate those cells, stimulating them to produce more cytokines, which then summon even more immune cells. Normally, this feedback loop is kept in check by the body, which shuts it down when a sufficient immune response has been mounted. However, in some instances, the reaction becomes uncontrolled, and too many immune cells are activated in a single place. This is called a cytokine storm. When a cytokine storm occurs in the lungs, fluids and immune cells such as macrophages and fluids can accumulate and eventually block off the airways, potentially resulting in death.
Important note: a cytokine storm doesn’t result from having too strong an immune system. It results from having a messed-up feedback loop. You absolutely want a strong immune system; you just don’t want it to get out of control. The precise causes for the cock-up in the feedback loop are not clear as both young and healthy people, as well as seniors with medical issues, can be victims. But here’s what we do know.
If, when under attack, your immune system can’t handle the influx of pathogens with its normal response, it doesn’t shut itself off. Instead, it sends out a “survival signal” that turns off the feedback-loop and keeps activated T-cells working at the site of inflammation in ever increasing numbers. In both influenza and COVID-19, that site of inflammation is your lungs. The survival signal is triggered by a cytokine designated OX40 that essentially disables the brakes on the T-cell response. Again, that unleashes a cytokine storm. Essentially, it’s a last-gasp effort by your body to defeat the invader. It’s almost as if your body is thinking, “I might as well go all in on my immune response even if it might kill me, because if I don’t defeat the invader, I will surely die.”
So, when talking about COVID-19, the key factor is viral load. If the viral load is too high and can’t be defeated with a normal response, your body kicks in with a storm. If you’re young and healthy, that load has to be very high. If you’re a senior with a weakened immune system and underlying health conditions, the storm can be triggered with a much lower viral load since your defenses are so weak to begin with that you are incapable of fighting the virus with a normal response. So yes, young healthy people can succumb to this particular coronavirus with a cytokine storm, but the numbers that happens to will be very, very small. In truth, if you’re young and healthy, you’re more likely to die from the seasonal flu. The problem is that because young healthy people dying from the flu or COVID-19 are so rare, when it happens, it becomes a major news story, which makes it seem much more prevalent than it is., When it comes to COVID-19, most of the people who will succumb will be seniors, especially those with underlying health conditions. Note: seniors have an additional problem. If their immune systems are compromised, any pathogen attacking the lungs is likely to open the lungs up to a secondary infection such as pneumonia. In fact, with seasonal flu, almost no one dies from the flu itself. They die from the secondary pneumonia infection.
What Should We Do? How Do We Defend Ourselves?
It is not my place to recommend anything contrary to the CDC or WHO. But I would recommend something in addition to what they say.
The problem is that everything they’re recommending is based on the idea that COVID-19 is a short-term problem that we can make go away with extreme short-term measures. All evidence, however, speaks to the contrary, that this is not a short-term problem, but rather a long-term problem like the seasonal flu that we will have to learn how to live with for years to come. The bottom line is that you need to assume that, at some point, as with the flu, you will be infected with the COVID-19 virus. The focus of your strategy then should not be on how to avoid it (although it’s certainly worth trying) but rather, on how to optimize your chances of surviving it.
And let me make this perfectly clear, your chances of survival, even if you do nothing, are overwhelmingly good. However, they can be made even better–especially if you are a senior citizen with underlying medical conditions. So, what I want finish with is a discussion the things you can do to make your odds of surviving an inevitable infection even better.
Building Your Immune System, Even If You’re Over 60
Too many people think of the immune system as something existing in isolation. That’s a huge mistake. In truth, your body is composed of a series of integrated systems–and, as such, is the sum of those systems and is only as strong as the weakest of them. Let’s take a quick walk through the Baseline of Health Program and see how each system impacts the immune system.
- How good can your immune system be (even taking all the supplements you want) if your primary elimination system, your colon, is not functioning properly. A substantial portion of your immune system then has to combat the effects of self-toxicity. Clean up your intestinal tract and you free up your immune system.
- By killing off invading pathogens and producing immune boosting bio-chemicals such as transfer factor and lactoferrin, beneficial bacteria are responsible for 60-70% of your immune system’s activity. Using a good probiotic supplement can substantially boost your immune system.This is especially important for seniors since as the colonies of intestinal bacteria age, they lose much of their vitality, which depletes much of the vitality of the immune system. But supplementation can totally renew the colonies so that they have the same vitality as when you were young. Considering they represent 60-70% of your immune function, that’s HUGE when it comes to dealing with the coronavirus..
- Using digestive enzymes with your meals and supplementing with proteolytic enzymes between meals significantly reduces the incidence of circulating immune complexes (CICs), thus taking enormous stress off the complementary immune system and reducing the chances of autoimmune disorders.
- A full-spectrum antioxidant boosts the immune system in multiple ways. Just one example is the spice curcumin. Traditionally known for its anti-inflammatory effects, curcumin has been shown in the last 30 years to be a potent immunomodulatory agent that can modulate the activation of T cells, B cells, macrophages, neutrophils, natural killer cells, and dendritic cells.
- Every tenth of a point that your general body pH falls below its optimum dramatically impacts both your primary immune system and the complement system. Low pH and disease, including cancer, go hand in hand. Shift the emphasis in your diet away from meat, dairy, grains, and sugars (which are acid forming in your body) more towards fresh vegetables, which are alkalinizing. Think Mediterranean Diet.
- Cleaning out the liver with an effective flush and rebuilding program improves its ability to produce immune factors and remove bacteria from the blood. Cleaning out the blood with an herbal blood cleanser and balancing your blood’s pH also helps to improve immune function.
- Daily use of nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) can significantly enhance the immune system across the board.
- Make sure you have a pathogen destroying formula on hand for use at the first sign of oncoming illness. It is much easier to stop a viral or bacterial infection during the incubation stage (when you are experiencing the first symptoms) then if you wait until it’s full blown. Also, as we discussed above, using pathogen destroyers to take down the viral load, throttles back the immune response and reduces the chances of a cytokine storm. And that’s why, in the last newsletter, I recommended keeping a natural antipathogen formula on hand. It doesn’t have to cure you. It just has to take the viral load down enough so that your immune system can do its job without being pushed to dysfunction–or allowing a secondary infection to take hold.
- You also should be using an immune enhancing formula to push your immune system to optimum levels. Make sense? You want a healthy immune system. It’s what’s going to defeat the virus. You just want the antipathogen I just mentioned to keep the infection within the capabilities of that system so that it doesn’t shut down your immune system’s feedback loop and launch a cytokine storm.
- Remember to use natural immunomodulators to keep your immune system balanced. You don’t want your immune system to blow too hot or too cold.
- Keep in mind that the primary entry point for most pathogens is via your eyes, nose, and mouth through contact with your hands. Your hands pick up potential threats by virtue of contact with other people (shaking hands, for example) and with objects (touching doorknobs, computer keyboards, and telephones). As we discussed, regular washing of the hands throughout the day with regular soap and water can take a considerable amount of stress off the immune system.
- One of the primary benefits of regular exercise is an optimized immune system. However, overly strenuous exercise actually has the reverse effect, not to mention making you mentally slower, so don’t overdo it.
- And find ways to reduce stress–meditation, relaxing walks, massages, whatever. As I have discussed in some detail in Lessons from the Miracle Doctors and in many blogs, newsletters, and radio shows, stress compromises your immune system.
Probiotics and Your Immune System
I’m sorry, but I have to emphasize the importance of probiotics here–not because they’re more important than anything else I mentioned above but because this is the chapter I’m currently working on in the major rewrite of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, which I had to step away from in order to write this newsletter. In other words, it’s at the forefront of my consciousness right now, so why shouldn’t it be in the forefront of your consciousness right now too?
Probiotics promote a healthy immune system and decrease the incidence of colds, allergies, and even eczema by boosting your immune system. For years I’ve been saying that beneficial bacteria in your intestinal tract are responsible for as much as 60-70% of your immune system function. Surprise! According to the latest estimates, I may have been understating the case. Some experts now claim that your beneficial bacteria may account for as much as 80-90% of your immune function. How is this possible? As it turns out, probiotics are multifaceted when it comes to your immune system. By lining every square inch of your intestinal tract, they not only provide a barrier to entry for many microorganisms that arrive with your food, they also directly kill many pathogens such as bad bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and yeast. They also function as immunomodulators and produce a number of immune factors such as lactoferrin that directly boost your immune function as well as a number of B vitamins that offer nutritional support for your immune system. And finally, it is estimated that some 70% of your immune system cells reside within your colon in a layer of lymphoid tissue just below the surface epithelial cells. The net result is that studies have shown, for example, that probiotic supplements can significantly prevent recurrent streptococcal pharyngitis and/or tonsillitis in adults. Other studies, conducted in China, found that children aged 3 to 5 who were treated with two kinds of probiotics had a 53 percent lower rate of fevers, a 41 percent decrease in coughs, and a 28 percent decrease in runny noses. And antibiotic use was lowered by 84 percent in the children who were on the probiotics.
And it gets better, i.e. more important.
Although most people think only of gut bacteria when they hear the word probiotics, colonies of beneficial bacteria are ensconced in 18 locations in the human body including the gut, the mouth, the nose and sinuses, the skin, the urinary tract, and the lungs. Taken as a whole, within the human body, it is estimated that there are 10 times as many microbial cells as human cells, and the vast majority of them are actually beneficial and “support” our biological functions. These symbiotic microbial partners perform a number of metabolic reactions that are not encoded in (and therefore not handled by) the human genome but are nevertheless necessary for human health.
Now, to be clear, the probiotics in the lungs (which we’re focused on today because of COVID-19) are entirely different than you will find in the intestinal tract, however…
A 2019 study published in Cell Reports discovered that, even though the bacteria in the gut and lungs are very different, signals from gut bacteria help to maintain a first line of defense in the lining of the lungs. When mice with healthy gut bacteria were infected with the flu, around 80% of them survived. However, only a third survived if they were given antibiotics before being infected. The study also concluded that antibiotics (and that would be both those that doctors give you and those present in your food) can leave your lungs vulnerable to flu viruses, leading to significantly worse infections and symptoms. And for that matter, drinking chlorinated water will damage your intestinal flora, which we now know will affect your lung bacteria, as will stress and improper diet. If you want a healthy immune system, you need to supplement with a good probiotics formula–and be really cautious when it comes to antibiotics.
And finally, for what it’s worth, I just turned 72 in February. I have no intention of hiding away in my house for the rest of my life while COVID-19 continues to circulate. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing for the last 50 years.
- I’m keeping my immune system optimized
- I have a supply of my antipathogen formula on hand just in case
- And I’m going to live my life much as I have for the past five decades.
And this is not reckless behavior. Something must be working. The last time I had the flu was three years ago (and probably at least as long for the infection before that), and I got rid of it in three days.
So, at this point, I wish you good health and long life. And I’m going back to finish the rewrite of Miracle Doctors.