by Jack Hoehn   |  March 5, 2020  |

The COVID-19 epidemic/pandemic is only one of many viral illnesses such as measles, mumps, chickenpox, influenza, cold sores and shingles (Herpes viruses) and HIV/AIDS. As no specific medication is available for COVID-19, and no vaccine will be ready in the near future, it may be useful to review how to increase your ability to fight viruses.

Please understand: I spent my life as a family physician, and this is what he would tell you if I were your physician. My advice is generic, and not all things I suggest are universally accepted. Please discuss any questions you may have with your own family doctor.

What is a Virus?

Viruses are technically not alive, because even though they are made of the same parts that make all living cells from bacteria to plants to elephants and use the same life codes that God created to make life possible (things like proteins, DNA, RNA), they cannot reproduce themselves like bacteria, plants, and all animals can. So one way of looking at them is that they are just bits and pieces of living cells.

However, viruses are not just random piles of junk left over from broken down cells, either. They are intelligently designed with a protein coat, and DNA or RNA codes that allow them to enter into living cells where they take over the cell’s mechanisms and reproduce themselves. And viruses are everywhere. There are more viruses on earth than there are stars in the entire universe.[1]

Since life is intelligently designed, the question is who is the designer of viruses? It is tempting to see an intelligent destroyer behind the disease-causing viral plagues such as HIV, Ebola virus, Zika virus, influenza virus, and new ones constantly appearing to attack us. But viruses can also protect life.

“Some of the viruses infecting humans are indeed capable of causing severe and often lethal diseases, but other viruses can be manipulated to be beneficial to human health. These viruses offer the potential to cure cancer, correct genetic disorders, or fight pathogenic viral infections. In addition, viruses are used in many genetic studies to determine molecular mechanisms, are used as insecticides, and have been reported to increase drought tolerance in some plants.”

So perhaps a virus can be considered a tool to be used for good or for evil, depending on how the tool is configured—which again supports the Great Controversy theory of life.

When There Are No Medicines

If you have HIV/AIDS there are powerful drugs that can save your life. If you have influenza there are medicines that help if taken early enough. Herpes virus can be suppressed by prescription medicines, if not cured. Hepatitis C can be cured by the proper drugs.

Other viral illnesses can be prevented by vaccinations. Please do not be influenced by the Satanic teaching that vaccines are bad for you or your children! Even though there are rare side effects from good things, like allergic reactions to otherwise good foods like peanuts and strawberries, this does not mean we must not use nuts and fruits. The same goes for vaccines. They are good and God-ordained means of fighting illnesses. All children should be offered the protection of vaccinations. Fear of vaccines leads to the death of children. Fight the fear and vaccinate your children.

But some viruses, like the common cold—and this includes COVID-19—have no specific vaccine and no specific medicines to treat them. So what can we do to fight back?

Hide from the Virus

The COVID-19 virus, according to virologist James Robb, is specific to lung cells. You cannot get it through your skin, through your hands, or through the air, unless you are breathing large droplets from someone with the virus coughing directly into your face. But these droplets can live on surfaces for up to a week. So, if you touch the surfaces and then put your hands into your mouth or nose or eyes, the virus can catch a ride into your lungs.

1.) Stay away from sick people who can cough on you, especially situations where you will be close together.

  • During virus epidemics, churches, Sabbath schools, classrooms, restaurants, post offices, concerts, airplanes, cruise ships, dormitories, nursing homes have already proven to be places to be avoided if possible. Stay home if you can. If you need to care for the ill, use gloves and mask to protect yourself and wash, wash, wash.

2.) Don’t bring the virus from surfaces to your mouth, nose, eyes. Don’t touch your face!

  • We touch our face unconsciously 91 times a day! This is why wearing a simple face mask (N95 not necessary) can help us by reminding us not to touch our faces. A mask isn’t necessary to “sterilize the air,” but just to keep you from touching the entry point.
  • No handshakes, hugs, kisses—elbow bump, fist bump, wave, smile, bow to each other.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after any contact, and before every drink or food.
  • Use hand sanitizer that is 60-70% alcohol-based (90% is not better—some water is needed for the sanitizers to work) when you cannot use soap and water. Keep some in your car, as you enter your home, even in your pocket or purse.
  • At the gas pump, post office or other public buildings or in public bathrooms use paper towels or disposable gloves, or push doors with your hip, elbows—or at least use your knuckles, not your fingers. Wipe down your shopping cart handle and child seat with the wipes provided. Wash your hands after use anyway.
  • Collect the offering in a basket sitting at the door. Don’t let deacons pass the plate from person to person. Suspend the children’s collecting dollar bills from possibly sick people. Donate using online giving instead of using cash.
  • Wash your hands and wipe down the card after using your credit cards at Walmart.
  • Use your own pen to sign, not the one attached to the credit card machine. If they give you a finger signing screen, ask if they have wipes to use to clean it first. Use your disposable gloves. Or wash, wash, wash hands after use.
  • Use paper towels, not cloth hand towels in any bathroom used by more than one person.
  • Chlorine-based bleach solutions, in the dilutions recommended on the label, can kill viruses on surfaces. (Do not use bleach undiluted—ever—on your skin!)
  • Bleach also works in your washing machine. Viruses on clothes can live for a week.
  • You might consider temporarily becoming an old-fashioned no-jewelry Adventist again, as rings, including wedding rings, do compromise hand-washing efficiency. 

Fight the Virus

3.) At first sign of viral illness, fight back generically. A little sore throat? Sniffles? Cough? Fever? Stay home—do not go to work or school, and try these hints:

  • The first physician in my family was my uncle, Dr. Edward Hoehn. He joined the Adventist church around 1916 or 1917, and during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 as a teen-ager treated friends and neighbors using the hydrotherapy he had been taught at Battleford Academy. He says the town physicians treated patients with narcotic cough medicines such as codeine or morphine, and many patients died. He treated his neighbors with hot compresses, cold rubs, and none of his “patients” died. Even today hot showers, or hot and cold showers, hot tubs, baths, and saunas can help people fight off viral illnesses.
  • Avoid narcotic cough suppressants if you can. But Guaifenesin (available generically or in Robitussin, Mucinex, and other brands) can help loosen secretions and let you cough them up. Dextromorphan (DM) may be OK, but try to get the brands without multiple drug cocktails in them! The sedating ones like night-brands may have the same problem as the older morphine and codeine cough suppression therapies did back in 1918.
  • I personally use old-fashioned, brown, bad-tasting Listerine type mouthwash to gargle at the first sign of a sore throat. Gargling for a few minutes and spitting it out is sort of like using alcohol-based hand washes except in your mouth. Then suck or spray your zinc every 2-4 hours.
  • Zinc has been proven to fight some corona viruses, so zinc sprays, or lozenges (like Cold-Eze or Zicam brands) might be helpful.
  • This suggestion may be controversial—or a placebo. But I do not see any serious harm, so I will share my placebo with you. In seriously ill patients dying of overwhelming infections, IV vitamins C and thiamine given in high doses by a protocol have been shown to reduce deaths. There are no studies showing oral use helps, but when I am sick, I take oral vitamin C (1000 mg six times a day) and oral thiamine (100 mg twice a day) till I start feeling better.
  • It is OK to treat fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol, Panadol) as recommended on the bottle. And if you don’t have stomach problems or kidney problems, ibuprofen (Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve, etc.) can keep you more comfortable.
  • Yes, drink water, juices, tea, coffee, herbal teas, but don’t try to drown yourself.
  • Don’t eat candy, but don’t starve when sick, either. It is OK to eat something your body can tolerate when sick, even if it isn’t the ideal diet. White toast, mashed potatoes, white rice, juices, smoothies, etc. may not be health foods, but when you are sick you need easily absorbed calories to fight an illness.

4.) Don’t run to the hospital or clinic to be “tested.” If you are seriously ill your physician may wish to test you mostly to know if you are a risk to other people. But testing will not protect you or lead to any different treatment for you. It is expensive, and for you to be tested “just to know” will used up resources for no real benefit. Stay at home for two weeks if you are ill, and use the generic viral treatments.

  • If you are really sick and have trouble breathing, please go to the hospital. You may need antibiotics not for the virus, but for bacterial infections that may complicate the virus.
  • But the worried well and the younger (50 or less) sick, but not seriously ill, should stay away from clinics and the hospital to let them focus on the seriously ill patients.


[1] The estimate is that there are 1031 viruses (that is 10 with 31 zeros behind it!).
An accessible article about viruses is:


Jack Hoehn is a frequent contributor to both the print and online versions of Adventist Today. He has served on the Adventist Today Foundation board since 2012. He and his wife, Deanne, live in Walla Walla, Washington. He has a BA in Religion from Pacific Union College, and an MD from Loma Linda University. He was a licensed minister of the Adventist church for 13 years when serving as a missionary physician in Africa. 

To comment, click/tap here.