Coronavirus and CFS/Fibromyalgia

Published: March 9, 2020


Many of you are finding yourself quite concerned from the media attention being given the coronavirus. Are you worrying that it may be more dangerous if you have fibromyalgia, and if it is, what you should do about it?

Today's article will be in the form of a Q&A. And it'll go way beyond what you've been hearing in the news. I think you'll find it very helpful!

Let's start with 4 quick tips before we launch into the overview:

  1. Once the virus hits your area, sucking on zinc lozenges while you're out in heavily trafficked public areas (subways, busy stores, planes) may kill the virus on contact.
  2. You may also want to boost your immunity with Elderberry, zinc, and vitamins A (no more than 8,000 units a day, as higher doses can cause birth defects), C, D and E. These are all combined at optimal levels in a product called ViraPro™ (take one twice a day).
  3. A supplement called ProBoost™ can be very helpful to enhance immunity. I begin taking this at the first sign of an infection.
  4. Although the ViraPro™ has the key nutrients needed to optimize immunity, a good multivitamin (e.g., the Energy Revitalization System) can also help your immunity.

I keep the first three items above in my medicine cabinet to augment immunity at the first sign of viral infection. I've taken the fourth one every day for years.

So what are the special implications of the coronavirus on people with CFS and fibromyalgia?

The coronavirus is a family of viruses that include the common cold. Symptoms can be relatively mild, or severe as in the case of the MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus.

Unfortunately, the media is often in the habit of crying wolf over new illness outbreaks. Back when they were panicking people about the avian flu and MERS, I was one of the doctors on national media telling people not to worry about it unless they were healthcare worker (or had been spit on by a camel). And these never really turned into significant problems.

But this one is a different kind of virus, and it poses risks that warrant taking proper precautions. We don't know how it will play out yet, but here is what you need to know.

Q&A for Coronavirus and CFS/FMS

Question: Will coronavirus kill me?

That's very unlikely. Present estimates show a 2% fatality rate. However, it may well be much lower than this, as many infected people with only mild symptoms (which most cases will likely be) don't get tested and aren't included in these numbers, which results in an inflated fatality rate. The risk is mostly for elderly people who have existing underlying health problems like severe emphysema — essentially the same category of people most at risk to die from a regular flu. To put this in perspective, 30,000 to 60,000 people die each year from the regular flu.

Question: But won't my having immune problems with fibromyalgia make me more prone to it killing me?

No. I have effectively treated thousands of people with fibromyalgia over the last 45 years, and I've never seen anyone die from having the flu. They may have felt miserable, and it may have taken a while for it to go away, but I've never seen it cause permanent harm to anyone.

Here's a tip for those of you who seem to catch everything, and seem to take forever to recover. In my experience, optimizing adrenal function is the way to reverses this. When I give adrenal support to those I treat, the response I routinely hear back is "For the first time, everybody else around me was sick this year, but I didn't catch anything!"

So for those who have symptoms of adrenal fatigue, such as being irritable when hungry ("Hangry"), low blood pressure, or orthostatic intolerance (e.g., POTS/NMH), I think adrenal support is helpful to support immune function. For this, I recommend a product called Adrenaplex®. This includes a number of adrenal supporting nutrients including the licorice. A cup of licorice tea each morning may also be helpful. In addition to helping adrenal function, the glycyrrhizin in licorice has also been shown to be active against coronavirus (as well as hepatitis in a number of other viruses). Although these studies use high doses intravenously.

Question:  Can adrenal steroids like prednisone help with prevention?

Unless you need these for other problems, I think taking adrenal steroids is a bad idea. The high doses used by most physicians actually suppress immunity. That's as opposed to the very low dose hydrocortisone (Cortef) up to 20 mg a day, which in my experience in the fibromyalgia population often markedly improves immunity along with other fibromyalgia symptoms in a large percent of cases.

Question: So you feel that this virus is a real concern. What should I do to stay safe?

Unlike the avian flu and MERS, yes, this is serious. Though we may get lucky and have it blow over easily, this is one where we should be prepared. Here are the key precautions you can take:

  1. If it starts hitting your community hard, don't go out in crowded places unnecessarily until it starts to pass.
  2. When you do go out, wash your hands using soap for 10 to 20 seconds when you get home, or whenever you get to where you're going. Even without the antiseptic soaps, this washes away 92% of the virus.
  3. As you probably know, hand sanitizer is pretty much sold out everywhere. But once it becomes available again it's reasonable to get an antiseptic hand wash such as Germ-X or Purell. Be sure the one you get has at least 60% alcohol in it. Many antiseptic hand washes do not, including some of the Purell line, having benzalkonium instead. Benzalkonium does not kill the virus. Companies are racing to get these products back into stock. So keep an eye out on Amazon and your local stores.
  4. Unless traveling by plane or other mass transit, I don't plan to be using a face mask. These masks do not prevent you from inhaling the virus, as the virus is too small to be filtered by it. What the mask does is keep you from putting your fingers to your mouth and face, which is helpful, and helps you from spreading the virus if you're already infected. Keep in mind that you aren't likely to breath in the virus in unless somebody who has it is within 6 feet of you and coughs in your direction.
  5. The bigger problem is when someone with the coronavirus coughs into their hands, and then touches something, for instance a doorknob or handrail. The virus can live on that object for about a week. If you touch that object, it can transfer to your hands and from there into your mouth. So a key piece of advice is if you're out and about when the virus hits your community, avoid touching things that countless other people have touched — like doorknobs and handrails. Avoid putting your fingers to your face and mouth. Carry a few paper towels in your pocket or purse, and use these when touching things everybody else is touching. Then when you get where you're going, throw the paper towel away. Have another paper towel to sneeze into if you have to cough, and throw that away too.

Question: What other things can keep me safer?

You have two main lines of defense. Think about it like a medieval town under attack. The first line of defense would be the moat or wall to keep the attacker from getting into the city (your body). The cautions above are a good start. But here are other measures I'll be taking once the virus becomes common in my area:

  1. As I said earlier, when out in busy public areas, suck on a zinc lozenge. Low concentrations of zinc kill the coronavirus on contact. I thought I had been pretty unique in figuring this out from the research. Then I read an article by a major coronavirus researcher who is making the same recommendation. So you'll find that zinc lozenges are now getting hard to find. But keep an eye out for them as companies are racing to restock them.
  2. When I get home from being out in crowded areas, I plan to put a few squirts of a colloidal silver nose spray into each nostril. Silver tends to kill many, if not most, viruses. It also keeps them from attaching to your cells.
  3. When it becomes active in my area, I plan to take ViraPro (one tablet twice a day) until the problem passes. It contains the key nutrients zinc, and vitamins A, C, D and E, plus Elderberry, which has also been shown to be active against coronavirus. In addition to killing the virus on contact, zinc in the bloodstream at optimal levels also strongly helps immunity and slows the virus.
  4. I will be taking the Energy Revitalization System vitamin powder (which I take every day anyway), and recommend beginning it now to optimize immunity.

Question: When is the coronavirus likely become a problem in the US?

Although nobody has a crystal ball for this, an educated guess is around the end of March. Until then, cases will likely be more sporadic.

Question: What will you do if you get a cough and fever indicative of infection?

As this virus predominantly impacts your lungs, cough followed by fever is a common sign. If I get that, I plan to:

  1. Stay on the ViraPro.
  2. Drink one or two cups of licorice tea each morning (not after 3 PM, as it may keep you awake at night).
  3. Consider taking several teaspoons of colloidal silver (the liquid drinkable kind) a few times a day. It isn't clear how helpful this would be. If there was a holistic physician nearby doing intravenous treatments, I would get intravenous glycyrrhizin (this is found in licorice and has been shown to be effective against coronavirus), vitamin C, and silver.
  4. Add theProBoost™, one packet under the tongue three times a day to optimize immunity further.

Trust that you'll be fine. In most people the virus is likely to be no worse than getting any other cold or flu. But an ounce of prevention can go a long way.

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. His newest book (June 10, 2024) is You Can Heal From Long COVID. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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