Prior to sinus surgeries, it’s common for surgeons to spray nasal passages with an iodine-based mixture to help prevent post-op infection.
Here in Shasta County, Redding physician Dr. George Domb, an ear, nose and throat specialist, believes a similar treatment could keep COVID-19 at bay. Plus, he says it’s so simple that lay people can create the mixture from two ingredients found in any drug store: povidone iodine and a saline nasal spray.
His theory aired Monday during a KRCR TV interview in which Domb said he trusted the self-administered treatment so much that he recommends it to many patients, staff and his family.
One caveat, said Domb: The iodine-saline spray is not suitable for children younger than 6, for those who are pregnant or nursing, as well as those with hyperthyroidism, and for those who are being treated for thyroid cancer with irradiated iodine, or those who are hypersensitive to iodine.
Among many other topics and questions, Shasta County public health professionals addressed Domb’s COVID-prevention nasal solution at Wednesday’s Shasta County Health and Human Services COVID-19 Media Briefing.
Dr. Michael Vovakes, Shasta County Deputy Health Officer, said that the povidone-iodine solution works fine for pre-op situations by ENT surgeons, as well as for medical professionals who work in close settings and who’ve shared personal protective equipment, like face masks, so the solution helps reduce the chances that the virus will enter via the nose.
“That solution does work for that purpose in that way,” Vovakes said. “It’s not clear to me as a physician how this would be used, except for those particular incidences with healthcare workers in this whole pandemic situation.”
But the biggest reason of all that the iodine solution doesn’t pass experts’ peer-reviewed, evidence-based sniff test is Domb’s recommendation is not FDA approved as a COVID-19 treatment.
Vovakes pointed out the impracticality of the povidone-iodine treatment. He said that if the solution were sprayed inside nostrils, the treatment would have its limitations since the tenacious coronavirus can enter via more portals than just the human nose.
For example, he said the nasal iodine solution would not protect the eyes, which is a worthy consideration because virus droplets can enter through the eyes. Likewise, the nasal spray solution wouldn’t protect the mouth, unless the iodine-based liquid were administered as a gargle or a mouth wash. Even so, Vovakes said that for it to act as an effective gargle, it would need to be done several times a day.
Vovakes’ conclusion: “I’m unclear how this would be something used by the public.”
Dean Germano, Shasta Community Health Center CEO, had the last word on the subject, on behalf of himself and his clinical staff.
“We take the position that any kind of interventions need to be evidence-based,” Germano said. “This hasn’t been evidence-based, to the extent that it needs to be, so we’re not promoting it.”
Thursday, KRCR followed up with a Thursday story that interviewed Vovakes, who reiterated his concerns about the solution, similar to what he’d presented during the Wednesday media briefing.
It may be too late for Vovakes and Germano’s words of caution to reach social media, where Domb’s endorsement of the nasal treatment is already gaining popularity, especially in the North State, where Domb is a well-known area physician.
The North State is also an area where a majority of voters selected Donald Trump, the president who in April floated the suggestion of injected disinfectant as a means of fighting the coronavirus. With that in mind, an unorthodox, un-FDA-approved treatment that relies upon an iodine-based disinfectant might be just the ticket for some folks.
Obviously, Domb is no slouch. According to his business website, he’s a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery – and a fellow member of the American Rhinologic Society, a group of doctors super-specializing in nose and sinus.
So when it comes to novel nostril solutions, no doubt Domb really knows his noses.
But as Vovakes pointed out, the coronavirus is an opportunistic virus that doesn’t play favorites with the nose. It’s also attracted to the mouth and even eyes.
Of course, the biggest drawback of all regarding Domb’s suggested nasal home coronavirus prevention is its lack of FDA/CDC approval as a COVID-19 treatment.
Either way, it’s no matter, because the genie is out of the bottle, and people who like the sound of Domb’s DIY idea are heading to drug stores to purchase supplies needed for their home-based nasal treatment. On Facebook, the original Domb story is gaining in popularity, and some commenters vow to follow Domb’s original recommendations:
“Why not? It’s benign. No side effects to speak of. Just a disinfectant. Much like washing your hands. I got mine. Mixing it now. Giving it to myself and 77 yo mom. It’s another layer of protection for a few bucks.”
Another commenter said, “At this point anything is worth a try.”
No 1 Misconception: COVID-19 is like the flu
Also at Wednesday’s SCHHSA media briefing, Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom sought to clear up some misconceptions about COVID-19, such as some people’s mistaken belief that the virus could be compared to a simple influenza.
She said it’s not the flu, and to illustrate her point, she described the toll the virus can take on the human body.
Ramstrom said yes, the virus does effect the lungs, but it’s a virus that travels. She said it’s a systemic illness that causes inflammation and can involve multiple organs, including new studies that show an alarming number of COVID survivors sustain damage to the heart.
“We’re still learning about it,” she said. “We hear about people who say, ‘Oh just go out and get it and it will help our community have immunity.’ We highly discourage that. Even among younger people, they can actually have pretty severe illness. It can involve not only the lungs, but it can cause blood clotting that can effect the lungs, as well as other organs, including the brain and extremities, the liver, kidneys, and definitely effect the neurologic system.”
As Ramstrom said, we are still learning about COVID-19 every day. On the one hand, there’s so much we do not know about this novel coronavirus, and that’s frustrating and frightening. But on the other hand, there’s a lot we do know, and that information provides tools to help us build more robust community health and hope.
The bad news is we know COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus for which have no immunity and no current cure.
The good news is we know that public health precautions, such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings, greatly reduce the spread of the virus.
The additional good news is that we know that although being quarantined is unpleasant, it works. According to the SCHHSA COVID-19 Aug. 6 incident update, “84 people who were originally quarantined (because they were close contacts of a patient) were later moved to isolation because they tested positive for COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, in Shasta County, the sad news is that a man in his 70s died of the coronavirus yesterday.
Also yesterday, Shasta County reported seven new cases; all men: two in their 20s, three in their 30s, one in his 40s, and one in his 50s.
Finally, because of Shasta County public health’s new incident reporting system, there will be no new COVID-19 updates over the weekend. Come Monday we’ll have Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s numbers.
A weekend of blissful ignorance.