The above words by Mahatma Gandhi really make me question our reaction to the current coronavirus pandemic. We seem to constantly want to fight things when it comes to health. We see viruses, bacteria and fungi all as enemies to be slain.
This aggressive approach to disease is not new. For example, researchers speculate that as far back as 7,000 years ago, if you suffered from epilepsy, headaches, abscesses or blood clots in the head, you could have undergone trepanation – the basic surgery of having a hole bored into your skull in order to cure your illness.
Luckily we aren’t quite so aggressive these days, but our approach is still essentially the same: the symptoms must be stopped. The disease must be fought and, hopefully, conquered!
Do you have a fever? Ok – take some Paracetamol. It will alleviate your fever and help you feel better. But why do you have a fever in the first place? Are your body’s natural defence mechanisms fighting something? Do you have diarrhoea? Ok – take some Imodium . It will help ‘block you up’ and stop the diarrhoea. But why do you have diarrhoea? Is your body trying to expel a toxin or pathogen you have ingested? I could go on but I think you probably get the point by now.
With coronavirus disease we are also taking an aggressive stance. We’re currently searching for drugs to fight SARS-CoV-2: the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and the HIV-suppressing combination lopinavir/ritonavir. Hopefully these drugs will help save lives but at the same time we need to be aware that they too have side-effects and will not be safe for everyone to take. Although chloroquine is thought to be relatively safe when taken in the correct dosage, it is known to cause eye and ear problems as well as headaches and itching; lopinavir/ritonavir, on the other hand, has more serious side effects, especially on the liver and pancreas and it is known to interact with many medications that people take on a daily basis.
“He who cures a disease may be the skillfullest, but he that prevents it is the safest physician.” – Thomas Fuller
So does this antagonistic approach to disease really help? Short-term, yes. And yes, it is vital to stop diarrhoea if a person is becoming dehydrated or very weak. And yes, it is important to bring down a fever in a young, weak child. And yes, absolutely – if you have severe coronavirus please do go to your doctor and let them help you! I am not arguing that this approach is irrelevant or unnecessary. Yet, I am thinking that in terms of our current viral pandemic, we need to add in a more non-confrontational approach. Let me explain myself a bit more.
“Non violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” – Mahatma Gandhi
What can I do if I have a viral infection?
I think we need to start treating ourselves and our bodies more gently. More kindly. If you have a fever and are feeling sick, stay at home and rest. Get into bed and sleep. Eat good food. Drink plenty of water. As I have just said, rest. Don’t take an anti-inflammatory and go off to work – all you will do is spread the virus, and all the anti-inflammatory will do is suppress your immunity and increase your risk of further complications. Let your body’s immune system do what it was designed to do – fight pathogens and keep you healthy.
I think it is time we stop fighting our body’s innate, natural processes. Processes that have evolved and been perfected over millions of years (sometimes, as mentioned in my blog “Virus: friend or foe“, with the help of viruses). Processes designed to keep us not just alive, but healthy and flourishing.
It is often the little things we do on a day-to-day basis that have the biggest effect on our lives, health and even our communities. If we all follow basic hygiene rules such as washing our hands, disposing of dirty tissues, not coughing or sneezing over people then we won’t keep spreading the virus. If we are ill with a fever and just stay at home until we are 100% recovered, we will recover quicker, decrease our own chances of getting complications and won’t spread the virus. If we are healthy and keep ourselves healthy through relaxation, good nutrition, exercise and sleep then we won’t be so susceptible to the virus.
“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” – Thomas Fuller
What can we do to stop the transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) ?
Think back to that circle of transmission you probably learned at school . Although it wasn’t the most exciting thing at the time, it now keeps popping into my mind. Mainly because of its simplicity and the simple truth it tells us: we can stop this pandemic.
To stop the transmission of a virus the circle only needs to be broken in one place. Just looking at the circle, each and every one of us can break it in 2-3 places.
Here are some ways in which you can break the chain of transmission:
- Don’t be the means of exit – stay at home if you are ill, cover your mouth when you sneeze, dispose of your dirty tissues, wear a mask if you have to go out.
- Don’t enable the mode of transmission – keep surfaces clean, wash your hands.
- Don’t give the virus a ‘means of entry’ into your body – again, wash your hands, try not to touch your nose and mouth too much.
- Don’t be a susceptible host – keep yourself healthy.
Can we learn from other infectious diseases?
According to the World Health Organisation (2020), tuberculosis still remains the world’s deadliest infectious killer with over 4000 people dying from it every day. What is even more frightening is to think that the bacterium causing TB was discovered more than 100 years ago (in 1882) and by 1921, the BCG vaccine against TB had been developed (Hansen-Flaschen, 2020), yet it is still the biggest infectious killer we face.
TB, like coronavirus, is spread through droplet transmission. TB infection rates are higher in poorer countries where people live in very close proximity to one another, are undernourished and where there is a prevalence of health-related risk factors for TB such as smoking, diabetes and HIV infection (WHO, 2019). Infection rates in countries with a high standard of living and good hygiene are low.
So what is this telling us? It is time we start breaking the chain of transmission rather than simply trying to eliminate the pathogen. Just as TB rates are low where there are good standards of hygiene and living conditions, so the spread of coronavirus can be halted through good hygiene. Just as TB rates are lower in populations who have less health-related risk factors, so coronavirus does not affect healthy people as severely as it does immunocompromised individuals.
Yes, we want our governments to close schools, close airports and put us all into lockdown. But there is so much each and everyone of us can do. And if we all do it, then life can carry on. Just think, SARS-CoV-2 is not the only virus on this planet. And I don’t think it is going anywhere. We need to live with it and all the other viruses that are already here. Or coming.
Author: Dr Ruth Hull (Homoeopathic Doctor)
Ruth is an integrative health consultant, four-times published author and homoeopath.
Hansen-Flaschen, J. (2020). BCG vaccine. Encylopaedia Brittanica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/BCG-vaccine. (Accessed 17 March 2020).
World Health Organisation (2019). Global Tuberculosis Report Executive Summary. Available at: https://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/tb19_Exec_Sum_12Nov2019.pdf?ua=1 (Accessed 19 March 2020).
World Health Organisation (2020). World TB Day 2020. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/campaigns/world-tb-day/world-tb-day-2020 (Accessed 19 March 2020).