Protect Yourself from MERS, a Deadly Virus
You’ve read headlines about the lung-destroying virus making its way around the globe.
The deadly MERS virus (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) is spreading fast, with three cases now confirmed in the U.S.
So far, MERS has sickened hundreds and claimed at least 313 lives, nearly all in Saudi Arabia.But the disease is quickly spreading to Asia, North Africa, Europe, and the United States.
Right now, MERS has a limited ability to spread by human contact. But scientists are watching it closely, because it could mutate at any moment.
The initial symptoms of MERS are similar to the common cold – fever, cough, shortness of breath. As the disease progresses, though, victims may develop pneumonia or kidney failure. About 30% of those who come down with MERS die, making it extremely lethal.
Imagine contracting this and knowing that your odds of surviving are only a little better than flipping a coin.
People with pre-existing medical conditions – weakened immune systems, cancer, diabetes, or chronic lung, heart, and kidney disease – are at highest risk.
That said, if you are in one of those groups, please don’t panic – but do take action.
Right now, we don’t know enough about MERS to stop it. But we do know that a strong, fully functioning immune system is your best weapon against a MERS infection as well as most diseases. Let me explain how you can upgrade your immune system.
My first recommendation: Use common-sense infection control practices to avoid getting sick. That means:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and really scrub your hands and lower arms. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap isn’t available. Do not use chemically-based antibacterial sanitizers. They train ordinary bacteria into antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
- Practice stress management techniques to protect your immune system, which weakens under pressure.
- Take a multivitamin and omega-3s daily to make certain you’re getting important nutrients that might not be in your diet.
- Sleep! While you snooze, your body is rebuilding damaged cells, so go to bed a little earlier to make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of restful sleep. If insomnia’s a problem, try melatonin, the sleep aid I use and recommend to my patients. Melatonin benefits your overall health.
- If you need to take antibiotics, take the full course of prescription as directed even if you feel fine. Do not “save a few” for later! Some bacteria will survive and evolve into antibiotic-resistant versions that are difficult – if not impossible – to treat – if you give them the opportunity by stopping your antibiotics too soon.
- Take probiotic supplements. These beneficial bacteria strengthen your immune system, correcting damage from antibiotics, a poor diet, and other lifestyle issues.Probiotic yogurt is not good enough. Even the healthiest of those products doesn’t come close to the therapeutic quantities in probiotic supplements. Look for a product containing at least 10 billion live organisms (or CFU) per dose.
- Be selective about socializing when bugs are at their peak. The CDC updates , and many areas have local versions. If MERS or another illness begins spreading, stay home. Limiting social contact was one of the few measures that saved lives during the 1918 flu epidemic. Better to stay home and be safe than go out and be sorry.
In addition, you can rev up your immune system by making healthy food and beverage choices. Much of your immune system is in your intestinal tract, so you can literally eat and drink your way to better health!
Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up food you love. It means finding healthier versions to enjoy. So, for example, instead of fast-food French fries that have been cooked in cheap, unhealthy canola oil, make your own oven-baked “fries” with organic potatoes and grapeseed oil.
Here’s another easy immune booster: Swear off sugar and processed, prepared foods. Then fill your plate with real food that has not been refined or processed.
Replace immune-damaging beverages like alcohol, sodas (regular and diet), and energy drinks with plenty of fresh, purified water.
Remember, at times like this, when emerging infections are circulating, it’s more important than ever to remain healthy and avoid places like doctors’ offices and hospitals, if at all possible.
Thankfully MERS is still rare. But building up your immunity is a good idea even if a pandemic never happens. A strong immune system can protect you against so many common ailments that I consider it an essential part of good health.
Unfortunately, very little research is being done to develop new antibiotics because they aren’t as profitable for the drug companies as drugs for chronic conditions that people take for life. So until there’s a safe and effective antibiotic for MERS, the best course of action is to give yourself every advantage with a strong immune system.
Last Updated: August 16, 2018
Originally Published: June 17, 2014