This particular Novel Coronavirus which gives rise to the disease condition referred to as Covid- 19, is unique in a number of ways. First, it mutates at a very rapid rate, making it very difficult to fully comprehend its next move. (This makes vaccine production more challenging than it should have been).
Secondly, the Novel Coronavirus (2019- nCoV) is what we call in epidemiological terms, a successful parasite, i.e. one that does not set out to kill its host, so it can continue to use the host, as it spreads. This is unlike Ebola, where the host can be identified by severe symptoms shortly after infection. Ebola kills 50% of sufferers after 6-12 days. Eventually, the dead host is buried together with the virus, thus reducing its spread.
Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), on the other hand, shows symptoms after it has stayed in its host for a while, leaving infected persons strong enough to move around, mix and spread the virus. For such a smart virus all we can do is plan for the worst, but hope for the best.
The good news is that the human body is able to produce a chemical called the Interferon which can destroy any virus any day. Interferons take a couple of days to be produced, the stronger your immune system, the quicker it is produced. Our most powerful arsenal is, in effect, a strong immune system.
Let us focus on building that by doing the following:
1. Make sure your diet is balanced, ie. having the right proportions and quantities of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, vitamins, particularly Vit.C, mineral salts, adequate amounts of fibre and lots of water.
2. Please exercise. Take a walk and get some fresh air while maintaining your social distance.
3. Get enough restful sleep (7-8 hours).
4. Mental and emotional stress associated with fear and anxiety is detrimental to your immune system. Do your best and leave the rest to God.
Obey all the rules on handwashing and other personal hygiene rules. Much as this smart (parasitic) virus will only use you as a host, this compromises your immune system and allows bacteria and other disease-causing organisms to take advantage of your body, this is where a good number of deaths could occur.
In this pandemic situation our strength as the human race lies in our immune system and since we are fighting a virus, the key is the freely produced chemical, Interferon, by the human body.
On the question of a lockdown, the first key arsenal against the virus is diet. If we have to go for a lockdown, the questions are:
a. will the rich sources of vitamin C, the oranges, pineapples and tomatoes be readily available, to those that need them in their best form during this lockdown?
b. What about the protein and other components of a balanced diet? Will we have enough good food sources to keep the immune system of the population strong enough to fight the virus?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then let us lock down right away. If it is no, then can we put in place a plan to ensure access to all the components of a balanced diet to the people, before we lockdown?
Another component of the balanced diet is water. Are we assured of adequate quantities of water, firstly for drinking and cooking, and also for bathing, washing and others?
Have we educated our people well enough and mapped out strategies to deal with the issues mentioned above and others I might not have thought of? We must proceed with caution, to ensure we do not entrap ourselves in unhealthy conditions in the name of “lockdown”.
2. The second arsenal we have is exercise. Lockdown now, or Lockdown later? How is a lockdown going to affect our ability to use exercise (an important tool in maintaining a strong immunity) to fight the virus? Exercise is pertinent in dealing with the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which we know targets the respiratory system as its first point of call. One thing we know about viruses, is that, the more you lie in bed beyond your normal sleep hours, (basically, the less you actively move around) the more they win their battle over you.
Getting up after adequate restful sleep and moving around particularly in a conscious exercise mode is key to winning the battle against the virus and other pathogens. Ultimately, exercise is considered very effective if you are able to work out well enough to have beads of sweat dripping off your body. In that case, you can be assured to have worked your heart well enough to have blood circulate to almost, if not all parts of your body. The blood contains one of our key weapons, the interferon (if it has been produced by then), which would be pumped together with the other components of the white blood cells to the different parts of our body, not only to fight the virus, but also any other disease-causing organisms. These are not the only benefits of getting your circulatory system in tip top shape.
A good circulatory system also ensures that your lymphatic system is also working well to keep you healthy. The walking up and down that most people do as part of their commuting to work or school etc, counts in getting your circulatory system to play its part in the fight, though not as useful as the conscious sweat dripping exercise.
What are the implications of a Lockdown on keeping the population healthy through exercise? I keep thinking about those who live in compound houses or apartments, where the space available would make exercising during the period of lockdown an uphill task and I would definitely recommend skipping, which should not require too much space.
It is also very important to exercise in well aerated spaces. A good dose of fresh air is crucial because oxygen in the air works with a healthy diet to power the heart and the other components of the army defending your body.
Some pathogenic microorganisms are also what we refer to as obligate anaerobes, i.e. they thrive in stale conditions, where oxygen is lacking, but are killed off, if you get some fresh air. To leave it plain and simple, a lockdown would help stop the virus in its tracks. However, some of us will be locked down in buildings where not just the quality of air but also its inadequacy is what will give the virus the leverage it needs to win the battle over our immune system.
3. The third arsenal against the virus is sleep. If a lockdown would ensure people get adequate amounts of restful sleep, then lockdown as soon as possible. Too much sleep as mentioned earlier could be counter productive.. The quality of the sleep is crucial. I am sure we all know how much a good nights’ sleep can rejuvenate our bodies. For my nocturnal friends it does not need to be night, even though the conditions of the night, in my estimation, makes it easier and more comfortable to sleep. Adequate restful sleep is key in keeping your immune system fit enough, to successfully fight the virus.
4. The fourth arsenal we need is to be mentally and emotionally strong. Possibly, a lockdown could feel for some like confinement and for those who live alone that would be solitary. We need to find a way to make the lockdown appear less burdensome. Some find solace in the Holy Book, others resort to prayer, others do it by watching their favorite movie or sporting activity with or without some drinks. Whatever it is, we need to take it easy and follow the instructions set out for us by our government in consultation with the health professionals.
Our Immune system is our most cost effective weapon in this war against the virus, let us ensure it is not compromised. Stay healthy.
The writer has been teaching biology at the International Baccalaureate level at SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College since 1995. He studied Biology at the University of Ghana, majoring in zoology with an entomology option. He enjoys hockey, reading biographies and mentoring young people