By Vince Giuliano
I am writing this at a time when like tens of millions throughout the world I am shuttered at home as protection against the COVID-19 pandemic. On November 17, 2019, I turned 90. Because of my age and because my wife has an autoimmune condition, we could be very vulnerable if we became infected. However, I think I may have already had and have recovered from that virus. I tell the story of that here.
Because, I personally practice many of the health and longevity interventions that I have discussed in this Blog, from time to time I have reported here on the state of my own health. Recent blog entries discussing my state of health and energy and some of my conditions of life are Funny Things Are Happening To Me On The Way To 100 written in August 2019 and UPDATE ON LONGEVITY INTERVENTIONS – MAINLY PERSONAL, written in April 2019. I stand by most all of what I have said in these entries, expanding on some contextual aspects here.
As to the COVID-19 Corona Virus, we seem to be free of it in my family and have isolated ourselves in our house. But is possible that I had and am recovered from an early US case of it. I may never know for sure.
I could have contracted it on a long packed airline flight from Phoenix to Boston on February 15, a West to East flight on an international carrier on a plane with passengers that could have originated in Asia. The following weeks, I had the typical kinds if symptom of COVID-19 so-often reported in the press. It started an inflamed sinus and sinus discharge, followed with sore throat/chronic compulsive cough, low-grade fever, fatigue, lassitude, sleepiness, lack of energy and feeling lousy, finally with cough from deep in my chest, coughing up pus discharges.
Image source. I had every symptom on this list except Kidney failure.
My situation got worse and worse, On Feb 25 I saw an Urgent Care PA who ordered a lung X-ray that showed a pneumonia spot in the posterior right upper lobe. I was immediately put on Azithromycin and Cefdinir pills, for a 5-day course.
Neither I nor my healthcare providers were concerned at the time that I had COVID-19. Perhaps wrongly, because I had not traveled outside the US, nor had knowingly been exposed to anyone who has done so. At that time community transmission of the disease was not believed in. Back then COVID-19 was seen as mostly a problem in China with only a handful of cases in the US. And no tests for it were available except possibly through the CDC. So I do not in fact know if my pneumonia originated with a COVID-19 infection. There is, however, good reason to think it did start with some kind of viral infection. Resting at home I slowly got better, although it took me about a month to completely recover. Now, my energy and vitality are back.
What other evidence besides how I felt and the lung x-ray exists that I was sick and am now better? – Four key body indicators measured 24-7 by my Oura ring were irregular for the worst 4-5 days of my illness (the pneumonia phase) but have been back to normal ever since. They are:
- Body temperature which normally and now varies around 97.1, but which ran 98.7 to over 100.4 during the worst sickness days
- Resting heart rate which normally and now runs around 49- 53bpm. Ran 66-68 bpm during the worst sickness days.
- Heart Rate Variability which today is 42ms but ran about 17ms during the worst sickness days. The higher the better, of course.
- Readiness score – a composite index of instantaneous health condition calculated by the Oura software. Today it is 87 My readiness Score averages at 76 and can go up into the 90s, During my sickest days it was 43-45.
The daily graphs of each of these are automatically recorded by my Oura Ring and most of these measures also by my FitBit Charge 3, and are online. They convey the same message – I was sick and now am back to normal, at a time when cases of the virus pandemic are multiplying around me and warnings are everywhere to stay at home and avoid people.
In the case that the cause of this sickness was indeed COVID-19, I have some conjectures as to why my recovery was so speedy and uneventful despite my age, and happening at home without ventilator or hospital support of any kind These are:
- Simply, I am part of the population demographic segment not seriously sickened by the virus. About half of people tested positive for the virus are asymptomatic, and as I understand it only about 20% get really seriously sick. Also, I have none of the comorbidities for the disease like diabetes, cardiac or pulmonary problems.
- I have for years been on a low dose of hydroxychloroquinine, 200 mg every other day. A traditional anti-malarial and anti-arthritic drug now subject to much political controversy because the President is advocating its widespread use to treat COVID-19, but prominent physicians say its use for this purpose is unwarranted until its efficacy for this purpose is established by a large clinical trial. The government database clinicaltrials.gov lists 68 studies testing the clinical effectiveness of hydroxychloroquinine against COVID-19. Despite the fact that a major clinical trial for the effectiveness of this drug against is still to be reported, there are at least 3 small clinical studies so far in France(ref) and China suggesting that this drug typically shortens the time and lessens the severity of a COVID-19 infection. I think this could possibly have happened for me. Further, there is an understanding of its probable molecular mechanisms of action against the COVID-19 virus(ref). And last week, the FDA authorized its emergency use for someone with the virus(ref). [UPDATE: 5/24/2020) Publications are starting to appear giving results of controlled large-scale clinical trials of hydroxychloroquinine against COVID-19. These strongly suggest that hydroxychloroquinine administration does not reduce and possibly increases mortality for those seriously ill due to the virus. See my blog entry C0VID-19 myths, truths, commentary and updates. In any event, my dose of the drug – 100mg a day – is possibly small enough so as not to make much difference,]
- A frequent and major dangerous event in COVID-19 infection is described in the literature as “a pro-inflammatory cytokine storm” that materially contributes to the damage done by the disease(ref). I believe that the anti-inflammatory 4 Herb Synergy supplement I have been regularly taking might have protected me from the worst effects of such a storm(ref). At least I do not think I experienced such a storm. (Note that this is a personal conjecture, not a claim I can responsibly make for our product without an appropriate clinical trial.)
- One of the drugs prescribed for my pneumonia treatment was azithromycin. Limited clinical evidence also suggests that this drug has been useful in reducing the severity and time course of COVID-19 infections. The green line in the lower graph below shows the effectiveness of azithromycin and hydroxychlorquinine ln combination in reducing patient viral load in a small French study.
It could be that this green line shows what happened to me.
- I have all along been taking a number of other dietary supplements reputed by some to have anti-viral impacts, including Lion’s Mane and Turkey Tail mushroom extracts, l-carnosine, olive leaf extract, melatonin, and ashwagandha.
I don’t know which of any of these may have helped me. Neither I nor my healthcare providers are much concerned with the potential deadliness of pneumonia infections in my case – 30% 1-year mortality probability for normal 90 year-olds. Nor is anybody in my medical care cadre besides me concerned that my pneumonia may have been kicked off by COVID-19
If and when an antibody test becomes available that reliably indicates whether I have had COVID-19, I will take it and resolve the main mystery of this blog entry. Meanwhile, I see this as just another of the many bugs I have gotten in my life. It will be the 4th or 5th encounter with pneumonia, and for some of the others I had to be hospitalized. I have been comfortably at home all along during and after this latest illness episode, writing this and other draft blog entries in my study, staying in good communication with family, friends and colleagues, and taking it easy. I am looking forward to the next decade of my life leading up to 100, and to keeping myself going fully participating in this hurley-burley life with health and vitality, continuing to contribute strongly all along.