Can Fear Increase the Death Toll of the Coronavirus?

Can Fear Increase the Death Toll of the Coronavirus?

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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
–Marie Curie

On March 4, I was scheduled to deliver a lecture at Tel Aviv University on the topic of drug repurposing. Instead, I was quarantined at home following a trip to Singapore. This afforded me the opportunity to study the literature for drug repurposing possibilities for preventing and treating coronavirus. I will share some of those ideas in my next post. First, though, I would like to focus on what may appear to be a non-medicinal aspect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Undoubtedly, we should do all we can to reduce the risk of infection with coronavirus. The first step is practicing improved hygiene which plays the most significant role in disease prevention. Interestingly, in 2007, 11,300 readers of the British Medical Journal chose the “sanitary revolution” as the greatest medical advance since 1840. The credit for this development went to 19th-century lawyer Edwin Chadwick, who pioneered the introduction of piped water and sewers rinsed by water into people’s homes. And please don’t forget the famous British plumber (or “sanitary engineer”) Thomas Crapper, who popularized the flushing toilet in the 1860s, without which I could not have survived the two weeks of home confinement.

However, I believe that the fearmongering and instillment of panic are hugely counterproductive, and it can lead to greater risk of infection and death from the coronavirus. Some years ago, in discussion with a world-renowned physician, the topic of the connection between mind and body came up. To my surprise, this physician dismissed it out of hand, stating that there is no connection between mind and body. I expressed my surprise. Surely he was as familiar with the medical literature in this regard as I was. “Absolutely,” he confirmed. “Your mistake is calling it the mind-body connection. You can connect two separate elements, but the mind and body are one. They don’t need connecting.”

There is no shortage of studies linking fear to suppression of immune function. Thanks to modern-day science, we have a fairly robust understanding of this connection. When we are happy and relaxed, our bodies produce “endorphins” (or feel-good hormones) that drive the production of immune-system guards, such as interferon which is the body’s natural fighter against viruses. Fear, anxiety, and panic are scientifically proven to suppress endorphin production, thereby depleting us of our most important defense system against disease, and coronavirus in particular.

“Fear does not stop death. It stops life.”
–Vi Keeland

By all means, let’s do what we can within reason to halt the spread of this disease, including practicing good hygiene, testing for COVID-19 and isolating just those infected, and stockpiling those drugs able to prevent and treat COVID-19. Most importantly, let’s remember that fear may be our greatest foe in conquering this pandemic. We have to be “fearlessly fear-less” in the face of the mass hysteria and fearmongering to improve our chances of successfully overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.

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