Viruses love a weak immune system

Justin Bieber, the mega-successful pop icon, has had better days. His mental health and addiction issues are common to many superstars. He’s had Lyme disease and infectious mononucleosis. COVID infections interrupted concert dates. Now, he is suffering from a viral disease that has affected his speech and made him cancel more concerts. At only 28-years of age and all the wealth one could want, what’s going wrong?
Doctors have determined his latest problem, a condition known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome. It occurs when the same virus that causes chickenpox activates in the ear and facial nerves causing facial paralysis and hearing loss in the affected ear.
He is being treated and will be back on the stage soon.
But Ramsay Hunt syndrome is not the main culprit. It is the result of a weakened immune system that simply doesn’t have adequate store of resources to mount a successful fight against a virus.
In Bieber’s case, the chickenpox virus has likely been living dormant in his nerves since childhood. Now that it has resurfaced in a painful and potentially damaging shingles outbreak, doctors are probably treating him with a combination of anti-viral drugs, corticosteroids, anti-anxiety medications, and pain relievers.
How much better off would Bieber be, however, if the obvious risk factors were heeded prior to the development of the disease?
At his age, he should be in the peak of good health. But his occupation and fame come with a lot of pressure. It’s no wonder, without sufficient care, his immune health falls down.
Many North Americans had chicken pox in their youth. They ensure their children are immunized, and never think of it again. But when the virus comes out of hiding in the spine where it’s been hibernating like a bear for years, a shingles outbreak never leaves any doubt that something is happening. Victims usually detect a rash occurring along the rib cage. The degree of pain varies from person to person. The majority of patients suffering from shingles often say, “I can’t even stand the light pressure of clothing touching the skin.”
It also depends on where shingles strike. Shingles in the eye, for example, can be very serious – not just in terms of the debilitating pain, but also potential lasting vision impairment.
The best defence is a peppy immune response when the nasty virus surfaces. That pep comes from ample supply of the ingredients the immune system needs to fight viral infections.
What are the most important of these? Always remember, vitamin C is more than a vitamin. It’s also an antiviral, antifungal and antioxidant. During infections, or trauma such as surgery, when the body is under significant stress, vitamin C levels in the blood can be reduced by as much as 90 per cent!
Vitamin C can help prevent infections, shorten the stay, and ease the severity of symptoms. Likewise, vitamins E, A and D are essential. A balanced diet should include these vitamins and other key minerals like iron and zinc.
In addition, exercise regularly. Drink plenty of water. Get good sleep on a regular basis. And minimize stress.
In Bieber’s case, it’s doubtful he can achieve the prescribed balance. All the more reason he should be bulking up on the easier ingredients, like high doses of vitamin C, and the sooner the better.
Fortunately, most cases of Ramsay Hunt syndrome have a good outcome. But the stakes are high for a superstar. More focus on prevention could mean the difference between decades of artistry or a tragically early end to a career.
Sign-up at to receive our weekly e-newsletter. For comments, Follow us on Instagram @docgiff and @diana_gifford_jones