Note: An accurate diagnosis of SARS may only determined through testing.
However, the information contained in the following letter includes
an informative list of palliative measures that SARS patients — and
anyone suffering from a bad flu — will find of great value.
First, a Bit About Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
Beginning in November 2002, the world was faced with a new infectious
epidemic disease, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). SARS
first surfaced in Guandong Province, China and spread from there
to other parts of Asia and beyond. Both SARS patients and those exposed
to them were quarantined. According to the Centers for Disease Control
(CDC), before the outbreak was over, more than 8,000 people had been
diagnosed with SARS, and 774 people had died.
In May 2003, the World Health Organization published a case definition
of SARS, based on what was known at that time: someone presenting after
11/1/02 with high fever (greater than 380 C/100.40F) and cough or breathing
difficulty, who either had come in close contact with someone with
suspected or probable SARS or had traveled to or lived in an area with
recent local transmission of SARS (WHO, 5/1/03).
The symptoms listed by the Centers for Disease Control later that year
included dry, non-productive cough and high fever, sometimes with chills,
headache, malaise, body aches, diarrhea, with most patients developing
pneumonia (CDC). SARS patients generally did not have runny noses or
sore throats (Tsang). In one Chinese hospital, some patients developed
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, and several of those died of Multiple
Organ Dysfunction Syndrome (Xiao). The disease tended to be less severe
in children than in adults (Low). Persons aged 65 and over, like myself,
and those with diabetes or other adverse health conditions, were more
likely to die of SARS (Berger). Among those at particular risk of becoming
infected appeared to be airline passengers and crews, hospital personnel,
and persons living in areas with local SARS transmission.
The causative agent was eventually discovered to be a new coronavirus,
and several diagnostic laboratory tests are now available (COO). The
virus is known to be spread by respiratory droplets over a distance
of a few feet, and airborne spread is considered to be possible (CDC).
The virus is stable in urine and feces at room temperature for at least
one to two days (WHO, 5/4/03) and can survive up to 48 hours on plastic
surfaces (Berger). Hundreds in a Hong Kong apartment building were
infected when minute fecal particles became airborne via an exhaust
fan in a defective plumbing system (King; Stein, 4/18/03). Airline
passengers have become ill when traveling with a person ill with SARS
(Beveridge; Stein 5/20/03). More than 50 staff and patients were infected
throughout three floors of a Chinese hospital served by the same air
conditioning system (Zhao).
Standard medical treatments used, with varied success, included antivirals,
corticosteroids, and oxygen supplementation (Berger). Some Chinese
hospitals added Traditional Chinese Medicine materials and methods
to the standard medical treatments to relieve symptoms and to improve "recovery
of peripheral hemolyrnphatic cells." These hospitals reported
lower death rates and shortened hospital stays (Lin).
As of this writing, a number of questions about SARS remain, including
- Why did some exposed persons
with antibodies to the SARS virus (such as a hospital nurse)
never develop symptoms of SARS? (New
- Can those who have had SARS relapse?
SARS antibodies protect against infection with the SARS virus?
there an animal reservoir for the SARS virus (perhaps the Chinese
wild civet cat, which is known to carry a similar virus)?
SARS epidemics recur?
- Since coronaviruses tend to mutate easily
(Berger), could a new SARS epidemic occur due to a variant virus,
so, would antibodies
acquired during the first epidemic provide any protection
against the new SARS virus variant?
- Can SARS be transmitted
through blood transfusions?
- Noting that children tend to become
less ill with SARS than adults, especially elderly people, and
experience of aches
experienced in bone and lymphatic areas, I wonder
if the SARS virus in some way contributes to mobilization
Encounter with the "Bug"
One afternoon in late April 2003, I boarded a bus in downtown Seattle.
It had been a busy week, and I was feeling tired and run down. There
were about a dozen people on the bus. One woman about three seats
ahead of me was small in stature, apparently young. She was slumped
in her seat, and I could not see her face. In a deep bass voice,
she was coughing – dry, hacking spasms of coughing interrupted
only when she gasped for breath. I immediately pulled the collar
of my turtleneck
shirt over my nose and mouth, hoping to avoid catching whatever it
was she had. A few stops later she got off the bus, and after about
five minutes, I took my nose out of my collar.
The next day I noticed a faint but constant tickle in my throat, but
no other symptoms. However, late that evening, I became aware I was
beginning to run a fever which seemed to go from normal to "burning
up" within less than half an hour. (I couldn't find my
thermometer to see how high it went.) I went to bed right away. When
I awoke the next morning, I had a deep bass voice (like the woman on
the bus), a dry spasmodic cough, but no other apparent respiratory
symptoms. I called in sick to my job, ordered home delivery from a
kindly neighborhood grocer, and imposed a quarantine on myself. There
was no way to get to a doctor without risking infecting others, and
there didn't seem to be either a definitive diagnostic test or
effective treatment for SARS, so I decided to try and fight it out
with home remedies. (Based on the evidence, I was assuming I probably
I was ill for about three weeks, and much of that time was a big blur.
I was sleeping 18 hours a day. At the height of the ordeal, I was weak,
somewhat groggy, and for about five days, I wasn't sure whether
I was going to live. When I breathed, I sounded like a broken accordion.
I don't know how many days the fever lasted. At the end of the
illness, I was weak, tired easily, and ten pounds lighter; my lungs
felt like two soggy loaves of bread inside my chest.
My Notes on Treating the "Bug"
During the course of the illness, I kept notes on what helped and what
didn't, in case it might later be of some help to anyone else
with the same bug. I am aware of course that I did not have a formal
diagnosis of SARS, and that both the symptoms and effective helping
measures could differ from one person to another. With that said,
below is a summary of my informal notes.
Rest. As I mentioned, I needed
about 18 hours of sleep a day. I found that lying on my back increased
the discomfort in my lungs,
and I felt
that it could lead to serious worsening of whatever was going on
in my lungs. The apparent toxins circulating in my body's fluids,
particularly in the scant but sticky mucus in my throat (which I
seem to cough up), seemed to be pretty caustic. Lying on my back
allowed this stuff to accumulate in my throat with the risk of
my lungs as I breathed. I therefore lay on my left side with my nose
pointed downward, which seemed to help (and I figured it would also
help my liver drain toxins more easily – something I learned
from a yoga class many years ago).
Aches and fever. The sore and feverish
areas seemed to coincide, at least in part, with the lymphatics.
I rubbed an herbal, topical,
salve into the sore areas a couple of times a day until a day or so after
the soreness had gone. (The oil in the salve, plus energetic rubbing,
of the salve's active ingredients to absorb through the skin.)*
Bone and tooth sensitivity. It appeared
that circulating toxins were stressing the body's calcium/magnesium reserves
to some extent, resulting in tooth
sensitivity and bone pain. (I was aware that the toxins might not have all
been virus-related, but may have also been mobilized from tissue storage.)
To alleviate this problem, I took 600 mg/calcium carbonate and 250 mg/magnesium
oxide together on an as-needed basis.
Heat. Breathing in heated air from an electric
stove for about ten minutes at a time helped soothe the respiratory tract.
While a full-body sauna would
probably have been even more helpful, use of a public sauna would have presented
a public health problem.
Neurological stress. These symptoms included
difficulty in balancing when standing or walking, increased sensitivity of
eyes to light, dimness of vision,
sensitivity of hearing. (Again, I am aware that some of these problems might
not have been related entirely to viral toxins.) I felt that clearing my
system of toxins might reduce or eliminate these problems, I found drinking
of fresh water helpful. Use of the salve mentioned above helped speed the
process, as did plenty of rest. The vision problems were helped by topical
of "natural" vitamins A and E in a base of coconut oil applied
to the skin around the eyes (but being careful not to get it in the eyes).
Possible vitamin Bl2 deficiency. My fingernails
got very pale, a sign that I attributed to possible vitamin B12 deficiency.
I was aware that the problems
I was having with balance might also be linked to such a deficiency. I dissolved
a small piece of a vitamin B12 tablet under my tongue, which, in a relatively
short time (24 hours), restored my fingernails to their original color, and
I noticed too that my balance seemed to have improved.
Clearing respiratory tract of mucus. The
amount of mucus (particularly in the bronchial area) differed in amount,
color, and caustic qualities, depending
on the stage of the illness. At first, it was relatively scant and very corrosive.
As the illness progressed, the amount of mucus increased a bit and acquired
a greenish tint. Using a warm solution of salt (HCl) and water, I gargled
it, and then to clear the sinuses I placed the salty water in the cup of
my palm, sniffed it up gently while tilting my head back a bit, and then
it out and blew my nose. Breathing steam from cooking sage simmering in water
was also helpful.
Easing kidney stress. The kidney area was
somewhat sore and tender to the touch, particularly during the first week
and a half of the illness. This
relieved to a considerable extent by the ingestion of copious amounts of
chickweed (Stellaria spp.) tea.
Anti-infectives. Garlic is an old and useful
herbal remedy for internal infections and also presumably for prevention
of infection. Cooked garlic may not be as effective
as raw or dried. I sniffed "fumes" from crushed dried garlic (and
also swallowed some of the garlic).
Vitamin C in appropriate quantities can prevent deficiency, (and deficiency
can result in reduced resistance to infection). I took 500 mg. of buffered,
timed-release ascorbic acid with bioflavonoids at least once a day during
Nutrition. During the first
couple of weeks of the illness, the idea of solid food was, to say
the least, not particularly appealing.
However, I craved
oranges and ate a lot of them (including chewing the white part from
of the peel of organic oranges, since I understood this contained some
bioflavonoids). I ate other fresh fruits and also clear soups made with
I avoided foods that would have required much digestion. When intestinal
seemed to be a problem, I absorbed minerals through the skin by rubbing
in a solution of liquefied seaweed mixed with sesame oil.
P.O. Box 21521
Seattle, WA 98111
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