COVID-19: What Everyone Needs to Know
From the Doctor

COVID-19: What Everyone Needs to Know

Written By Dr Steven Gunn (MBChB. BSc. CVIT)



It is a unique infectious Corona Virus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes an upper and lower respiratory tract infection similar to the flu but much worse in the elderly and persons with high blood pressure, heart, lung and kidney disorders, diabetes and weak immune systems. Latest scientific evidence suggests that Covid 19 may attack the iron carrying protein (haemoglobin) part of the red blood cells knocking out some of the iron so that the red blood cells can no longer carry enough oxygen to the organs and cells, starving them of oxygen. The excess iron in the blood stream is toxic to the body (especially the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys) causing organ failure. One theory suggests that the Covid19 virus acts like a unique viral “parasite” similar to the malarial parasite which targets the red blood cells. Some research also suggests that a bacterium may be implicated which  causes the blood to thicken forming blood clots which cause strokes, thromboses in the legs, lungs, kidneys, and heart, leading to difficulty in breathing, kidney failure and heart attacks. All this is aggravated by over activity of the immune system which causes a “cytokine storm” which causes a massive release of immune chemicals and resultant inflammation and fluid in the lungs causing further damage in the lungs and preventing the uptake of oxygen into the blood stream. This is why the infected individual cannot get enough oxygen and becomes oxygen starved. A weak immune system and low levels of vitamin C and vitamin D may result in some patients surviving and others not.


What are the symptoms?

The majority of people infected have little or no symptoms, however the symptoms below are the most commonly experienced:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Loss of sense of smell & taste
  • Sneezing – less common
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache, sore throat, sputum production and muscle pain
  • In more severe cases:
    • Symptoms of Blood Clots (eg. Strokes, DVT, Pulmonary Embolism)
    • Pneumonia
    • Severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
    • Kidney Failure
    • Heart Failure & Death

How is it transmitted?

From person to person through respiratory secretions like saliva, sneezing, kissing, touching, airborne droplets and shaking hands.


How long does the virus survive on surfaces?

We are not exactly sure, but from a number hours up to 72 hours and in some cases multiple days.

What is the incubation period?

Person has no symptoms while the virus is incubating in the body. Average incubation period 5-6 days but can be 2-14 days.

For how long can a person feel infectious?

A person who has COVID-19 Virus can infect other persons for 10 days on average, but even longer in patients who are severely ill (2-4 weeks).For asymptomatic patients they are not exactly sure.

How deadly is it?

  • For young people not very deadly (0.2% under 20 years).
  • For persons over 80 years, quite deadly (approx. 15%-40% death rate) or more.
  • On average less than 1 to 3.4% death rate. Statistics can vary according to place, age, sex, ethnicity, underlying medical disorders and nutritional status.

How long does immunity last?

We are not sure.  Once one has recovered from the infection one should have good immunity, however, it is possible to get re-infected, but the percentage is low.

How quickly does it spread?

Very quickly but infects less people than the Influenza Virus (COVID-19 for every 1 infection, 2 others will be infected) for Flu, (for every 1 infection, 10 others will be infected). 

How do you test for it?

If you are showing symptoms or think you have been exposed to it you can have a RAPID FINGER PRICK Antibodies test or a NOSE AND THROAT PCR LAB SWAB test.  Rapid tests (2-60 mins) PCR SWAB (1-2 days).  New PCR Tests are being developed which are much faster e.g. 1 to a few hours. The PCR Test is best because it is far more accurate, but new accurate ANTIBODY tests are being developed.

How can one prevent it from spreading it?

  1. Avoid close contact with other people and touching your mouth, nose or face or eyes.
  2. Wash your hands on and off all the time with soap and water or 70% alcohol disinfectants.
  3. Wash hands before eating, after eating, after going to the toilet, after touching door handles, toilet handles, taps, handrails, stair and escalator rails, before and after touching knives and forks, cups, glasses, plates, supermarket baskets and trolleys etc. and all surfaces especially metal, glass, plastic and wood.
  4. Wear glasses, or goggles, or a shield to protect your eyes from saliva droplets.
  5. Avoid shaking hands, kissing, hugging, sneezing and coughing near other people and spitting when you speak. Even if you cannot see the droplets they are in the air.
  6. If you cough or sneeze or someone else does then cover your nose and mouth with your elbow or a tissue and throw away in a refuse bin, immediately.
  7. Disinfect surfaces, furniture, instruments, cell phones, lap tops, buttons etc.
  8. Wear a mask or face shield if you are infected, have symptoms, or not infected but near other or multiple persons. It is recommended that everyone should wear masks. Do NOT forget to protect your eyes with glasses or goggles. IMPORTANT to check that your alcohol based sanitizer does NOT contain methanol which is toxic to the body. You will only know if it has been tested in a lab. 

Is there anything one can do to strengthen one's immune system or improve one's general health to prevent it?

Yes, but poor diet, poor lifestyle (e.g. smoking, excess alcohol, no exercise etc.) and medical disorders, drugs, infections and poor nutrition all weaken the immune system and our resistance and general health status.

DO the following:

  • Eat more vegetables, salads, fruit, nuts, seeds, fish, beans (pulses), free range chicken, eggs and lean meat (If you are a vegetarian or vegan, make sure you get enough quality protein, Vit B12 and Iron).Avoid sugar, sugar loaded foods, sugary drinks and excess carbohydrates as they weaken the immune system, damage the haemoglobin in the red blood cells and damage the nerves and blood vessels.
  • Drink plenty of mineral or purified water +/- 2-3L per day
  • Exercise for 15-30 mins 5-7 times per week (e.g. Walking, Cycling, Swimming, Dancing, Gym)
  • Sleep 7-8 hours per day in a dark, quiet, well-ventilated room
  • Get more rest, take more breaks, have massages, listen to music
  • Avoid toxic chemicals, pollution, smoke, pesticides, sugar and fried food
  • Live a healthier lifestyle (avoid bad habits, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, etc)
  • Take appropriate food supplements (upon informed advice)

Which food or vitamin supplements are recommended?

It's best to get advice from a clinical nutritionist or integrative medicine doctor. In general, Vitamins A, C, D and E and Vitamin B complex as well as Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium and Iodine with Omega 3 healthy Fats and Antioxidants. Take high doses Vit C and extra Vit D3 .

Super Foods, Medicinal Herbs, Spices and Plant extracts can also be very beneficial to maintain a healthy immune system and increase overall health.  Avoid ingredients that you are allergic to.