This twice-monthly health column is by a practicing cardiologist, clinical professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine and founder of the Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms. He's an author who has appeared on "Dr. Oz" and "The Doctors Show."
By Dr. Joel Kahn
As Covid-19 was exploding over a year ago, I decided to stay away from interviews and focus on my passion -- preventive cardiology.
Yet my intellectual curiosity is hard to restrain, and now I'm ready to discuss controversial topics related to the pandemic that has robbed hundreds of thousands of Americans of life and left millions of other with health and financial woes.
Indeed, much of the tragic progression of Covid -- if diagnosed or treated late in its course -- is damage to blood vessels throughout the body, with widespread clotting or bleeding. Covid-19 care and prevention of complications from the virus overlaps with cardiology preventive measures. A study published this past week indicates a lower rate of moderate or severe symptoms with the Sars-CoV-2 virus in those that ate plants and fish in their diets versus “low-carb and high-protein” diets rich in meats.
But how are we going to end this pandemic? I propose we consider three distinct strategies to beat the virus forever.
1) Vaccinations: Over 300 million doses of a vaccine have been given to Americans over 16, with over 140 million fully vaccinated -- about 43% of the population. Michigan's numbvers are 8.1 million does (60%), including nearly 4.9 million fully vaccinated residents.
Efforts to drive these numbers higher include giving out donuts, gift cards and even tickets for a $1-million special Ohio lottery. Data from highly vaccinated countries like Israel suggest that the shots help control this pandemic and hopefully can end it.
Whether children should be vaccinated in light of their low rate of serious infection and increasing attention to a serious cardiac complication called myocarditis being reported worldwide is being hotly debated. National experts in public health like Dr. Marty Makary of Johns Hopkins University have written recently of their concern regarding the ethics and safety of expanding childhood vaccinations.
2) Natural immunity: The data are growing that recovery from a Sars-CoV-2 infection provides long-term immunity. Up to 150 million Americans have this natural immunity, estimates Dr. Makary, who questions the need for any vaccinations -- or at least for "double vaccinations" in Covid-recovered persons. A study issued this past week from the Cleveland Clinic found no re-infections among 2,759 of its unvaccinated employees who survived Covid. The authors question the need for vaccinating the Covid-recovered, though the hospital adds a statement:
This is still a new virus, and more research is needed. It is important to keep in mind that this study was conducted in a population that was younger and healthier than the general population. In addition, we do not know how long the immune system will protect itself against re-infection after Covid-19.
It is safe to receive the Covid-19 vaccine even if you have previously tested positive, and we recommend all those who are eligible receive it.
A larger study last month of over 600,000 Covid-recovered subjects found reinfection rates were extremely low. Prior infection can be confirmed, if necessary, by antibody and T-cell (T-Detect) blood tests.
3) Early outpatient therapies: Discussions about early therapy for Sars-CoV-2 infections, or even the prevention of them, using repurposed medications and vitamins is growing louder as more data emerges. Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital was an early contributor to these data last year. It is worth your time to visit covid19criticalcare.com and aapsonline.org to review protocols like I-Mask+. At-home therapies may require a prescription medication from your health care team or an online telehealth source.
As an example of this approach, Mexico has instituted widespread outpatient treatment of all citizens at the earliest signs of infection (even if just an asymptomatic positive swab) using an inexpensive and safe drug called ivermectin, used in the U.S. to treat or prevent parasites in animals. Medical researchers investigating ivermectin for other infections won a Nobel Prize in 2015.
Mexican physicians reportedly have recently seen dramatic drops in hospitalizations and death from Sars-CoV-2 infections since adding this repurposed medication, which has anti-viral activity. For the group of Detroiters that cannot get a vaccine or refuse one, and who have not had a prior Covid infection, the protection offered by these programs developed by top leaders in critical care and pulmonary medicine may be lifesaving and help end this pandemic for good.
However, for full disclosure I should point out the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in disagreement. It warns strongly against this approach. "Please beware," the regulatory agency says in a March statement:
Using any treatment for Covid-19 that’s not approved or authorized by the FDA, unless part of a clinical trial, can cause serious harm. ... The FDA has received multiple reports of patients who have required medical support and been hospitalized after self-medicating with ivermectin.
FDA has not approved ivermectin for use in treating or preventing Covid-19 in humans. Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses). Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm.