If you suspect you may have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 or are displaying the relevant symptoms, please seek professional medical advice immediately.
At present, British Government policy for reducing the spread of coronavirus is for people who may have come in contact with it to be isolated, mostly in their own homes, for two weeks, the possible incubation period of the virus.
However, as many people live with others or have pets, quarantining may prove to be of limited effectiveness. In addition, isolation has a serious economic impact as people mostly cannot work during this time, and also social and physical isolation can quite quickly have a detrimental effect on wellbeing through boredom and loneliness. Cabin fever is bound to ensue.
On 8th February 2020, I wrote on Technical Politics that it would be worth investigating whether black elderberries could offer protection against the Novel Coronavirus, now named COVID-19. There is evidence from scientific literature that using black elderberry can reduce the severity of a flu infection, and I have personally found it to be effective. While COVID-19 is a coronavirus rather than a influenza virus, controlled trials of a natural remedy known to boost the immune system is an obvious public health measure that authorities should consider implementing, particularly if there is a risk of shortages of conventional medicines.
Take the recent contact cases in York. In addition to other measures, those suspected of having come into contact with those known or suspected of having a COVID-19 infection should be given information about the possibility of black elderberry being effective in preventing symptoms developing, and might be persuaded to take it for two weeks. The results of the trial population should be monitored and closely compared with other groups. If initial trials indicated potential effectiveness, it could be further piloted and if shown to be effective could be used as national policy until a vaccine is developed.
Given the limited nature of the outbreak in the UK at the moment, the numbers of those needing to take black elderberry would probably not be enormous and hopefully supply would not be a problem. This is surely one measure that the authorities should be investigating.
Given how few the potential remedies are at this point, and the importance of slowing the spread of COVID-19, a swift control trial has much to commend it.
Jane Graham Reed is a retired science and health education teacher. She is now training as a CBT therapist and does project work around mindfulness, well-being, meditation and mental health.