Cycling Versus The Coronavirus

Measuring the impact and looking for solutions

By Dr. Johnathan Edwards

The recent coronavirus spread has caught the world by surprise. Major events and gatherings are being canceled, millions of children are out of school, crippling the travel industry, and the financial industry is more volatile than ever.

Few sports are positioned to suffer from the coronavirus as professional cycling. Cyclists run around in small tight-knit packs in hotels and motorhomes, surrounded by coaches, mechanics, trainers, and managers who often come from different parts of the world. The cycling calendar is packed with events and travel for about 9 months of the year. Importantly, cyclists have tattered immune systems from the hard training regimes, relative caloric restriction, chronic weight loss, and frequent travel.

The first signs of the Coronavirus in the pro peloton showed-up at the UAE Tour 2020. Photo: Bettini

Events around the world are being canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic and has affected many cycling events such as the Strade Bianche and the UAE tour. Several teams have announced they will pull out of races in the coming weeks in Italy and France. An elite bicycle race in the Persian Gulf might have seemed an unlikely candidate to be disrupted by the global coronavirus outbreak. For the riders, the news came suddenly. In one instant they were preparing for another day of racing near Abu Dhabi, and the next they were amid a global public health crisis.

At the UAE tour, dozens of cyclists and team officials were quarantined in a hotel after the race including Chris Froome and Adam Yates. Cofidis team president, Thierry Vittu, said that cyclists were being “treated like plague victims.” Officials said the teams would remain under quarantine until March 14. Italy is a hotbed for the coronavirus with more than 300 reported cases. The UAE Tour, a seven-stage race through the desert, made the decision after two Italian staff members of a participating team tested positive for the coronavirus.

Italian sports have already been thrown into confusion by the novel coronavirus, with millions of people on quarantine and the country’s top soccer league postponing several matches. But more events are at risk and cycling is likely to be hit particularly hard. RCS Sport, the leading organizer of Italian bike races, has already said it was monitoring the situation with respect to three other elite races it was due to hold this spring: Milan-San Remo, the Strade Bianche, and Tirreno-Adriatico.

Coronavirus – The Good, The Bad, The Uncertain




First it is useful to define what the coronavirus is and how it differs from the common influenza virus. The coronavirus is so named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface, which is what makes the coronavirus a bit different than the flu virus. Both viruses lead to a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

It is very important to realize that the virus particles are so tiny that virtually no man-made barrier can keep them from getting into your system. Starting from head to toe, the virus can contact your eyes, nasal passages, oral membranes, and perhaps even the ear canals. Then of course there are the genitals and anal passages that can permit passage of any virus or bacteria through a variety of ways.Finally, open skin sores can facilitate entry of virus particles into the body.

The coronavirus spreads easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals, and confined spaces such as an airplane, hotel or car. The virus travels through the air in microscopic respiratory droplets that are produced when a person coughs or sneezes. Masks offer scant protection. Masks do not occlude the mouth, they do nothing for the eyes, or open skin injuries. Masks do however offer some protection if another person is coughing directly in front of you. Disinfectants like Purell do not kill viruses, they work for bacteria.

THE BAD



Spreading to over 85 countries, the coronavirus has been labeled a public health emergency of international concern. Aspects making the coronavirus outbreak worse than others are the rapidity of spread, the fact that there is no treatment, the large diversity of symptoms, and the uncertainty of when it well end. The coronavirus started with a limited number of cases in China to over 100,000 cases within a period of months. This has led to over 3000 documented deaths, mostly in China.

Travel, business, and education in China are virtually at a standstill. Millions of children are prohibited from going to school and are starting online schooling in the home to continue their educations. The lack of adequate testing measures has led health experts to estimate that the number of people with coronavirus infection are in the hundreds of thousands. Travel to China is not advised according to the State Department website. Measuring temperatures with thermography has been minimally effective.

There is no medical treatment per se for the coronavirus and supportive care and isolation are the major treatments. If you present to a hospital with a fever and any suspicion of the virus, you will likely be put in an isolation room until it can be shown that you are virus negative.

THE GOOD – PREVENTING  & CATCHING THE CORONAVIRUS


Stay Home

By staying home when you are sick, washing hands, bolstering your natural immune system as much as possible, and get adequate care to treat respiratory symptoms. Many of these recommendations from the CDC are helpful in preventing catching other illnesses such as bacterial and viral infections.

Immune System

Beef up your own immune response by taking care of your body. Staying off sugars, eat energy-dense foods, practice moderate fasting, stay home if you are sick, limit your exposure to persons who are presenting flu-like symptoms, and be sure that your sleep is on point.

Get the Flu vaccine

A flu vaccine decreases your chance of getting the flu and may decrease the severity of the flu if you do get it. It’s not perfect and may not prevent catching the coronavirus. Even with the vaccine, you still have a 25% of getting the flu for various reasons.

Vitamins

Some studies have shown that taking zinc right at the onset of the flu may help. Most studies suggest a highly absorbable zinc such as zinc picinolate. Foods high in zinc include oysters, meat, tofu, seafood, beans, and zinc fortified foods. Vitamin C may also help but achieving a high dose can be difficult. Finally, olive leaf extract is a mainstay of natural medicine practitioners during flu season. It’s difficult to know if things like vitamins B, C and D, selenium, zinc or herbs such as astralugus could work against the coronavirus, but they certainly do not make things worse. It is interesting that China shipped over 50 tons of IV vitamin C shipped to China and are now starting medical trials. Vitamin C ramps up the immune system inside of the cells by increasing the activity of enzymes that use hydrogen peroxide to kill intracellular pathogens. A little known fact is that a single serving of liver contains more vitamin C than 2 pounds of carrots!

Rest and Recover

The moment you think that you have flu symptoms, consider taking the day off and recover. Eat well, don’t stress, and most of all get a good night’s sleep. Go to bed with the sun and rise with sun. Consider cutting alcohol as well, which increases quality sleep.

Cut the sugar

A well-balanced diet and cutting out the processed foods will enhance the white blood cells, which are the soldiers of your immune system. Sugar is known to suppress the white blood cells, as well as prevent the uptake of vitamin C and magnesium into the cells.

Probiotics

Consider taking a quality probiotic such as VSL-3. The goal is to keep those cells in your intestines healthy because of something called GALT. Not the John Galt from the Anne Rand book Atlas Shrugged, rather Gut Associated Lymphoid tissue. This portion of the intestines are responsible for up to 70% of your immune system!

There is a large diversity of symptoms with the coronavirus. Some people only have the virus with absolutely no symptoms, while others have severe respiratory symptoms compromising health and even leading to death. Symptoms of the coronavirus can take between 2 days and 2 weeks to appear.

Look for common flu symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, and respiratory symptoms.
Most cases are limited to China and few deaths are reported outside of China. For example, there are 11 such deaths in the U.S. as of this writing, compared with hundreds of influenza deaths already reported for 2020. In fact, there are 16,000 flu-related deaths annually in the U.S. To date, there have been over 3000 deaths in China, more than 100 in Iran and Italy and 11 in the USA (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/).

Although the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, it appears to be less deadly than the 2003 SARS virus outbreak, which had about a 30% mortality rate. Most deaths from the coronavirus seem to be affecting the elderly and those with pre-existing illnesses. This is much different than the Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s where just about everyone was affected and the side effects of the Spanish flu were often lethal, no matter the age. Most people have survived the coronavirus once they were infected. Of the near 100,000 cases reported, there have been over 50,000 cases that have completely resolved since the outbreak.

Also, keep in mind the coronavirus is not near as contagious as the measles or smallpox for example. For every person infected with the measles virus, 12 persons are said to be infected. In contrast, for every person infected with the coronavirus, 3 or 4 persons are infected. However, this may change as more information becomes available. All infectious epidemics eventually burn themselves out. Even something like the Smallpox and Bubonic plague decimated large portions of the population in the middle ages, eventually ended.

Don’t believe the crazy news about the coronavirus such as drinking bleach or using ozone water to kill the virus. There are sure to be more crazy stories about how to get rid of the virus on the net.
Also, there is a conspiracy theory going around that the coronavirus is a man-made virus because it originated from the Wuhan, China biology labs. Research is being done on this subject, but it is useful to remember that nature usually does not need any help from humans to start an epidemic from a virus or bacteria.

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