In my last article I explained what a virus is and how they can affect and express inside a human body. To take this to the next step and assuming you have read the above linked article, let us discuss and explain the current facts and information on COVID-19.
Let me start this article by saying that I'm simply going to state the clear facts and information that is present regarding COVID19 so far. This will not be an article on the various conspiracy theories out there regarding COVID19. The internet is full of those, so if that’s what you’re searching for, feel free to Google away on that.
Regardless of what you believe, I must say that COVID19 has been extremely disruptive to families and societies globally. I’ve had friends, relatives and colleagues who have lost loved ones or are currently fighting COVID19 themselves. My heart goes out to those who have suffered and those who are currently battling this virus in order to survive. We always tend to throw numbers at large scale issues and typically forget that behind these numbers are people. People like us who were simply living their lives before COVID19 started to spread.
So, with that in mind, let's look at the actual facts based on what we know so far about COVID19. Here is a simple to digest breakdown :
One important item to mention here is that face masks are very important to limit the spread of COVID19. However, masks should only be used if you yourself feel you may have a cold, flu-like symptoms or COVID19 . Wearing a mask prevents you from spreading most colds, flus and COVID19. The majority of masks provide very little protection against COVID19 unless you’re using an N95 particle filter or above rating mask and wear it consistently.
This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally .
Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing hospital treatment. Around 1 out of every 5 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart and lung problems, diabetes, or cancer, are at higher risk of developing serious illness. However, anyone can catch COVID-19 and become seriously ill. People of all ages who experience fever and/or cough associated with difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, chest pain/pressure, or loss of speech or movement should seek medical attention immediately. If possible, it is recommended to call the health care provider or facility first, so the patient can be directed to the right clinic .
Research indicates that children and adolescents are just as likely to become infected as any other age group and can spread the disease. Evidence to date suggests that children and young adults are less likely to get severe disease, but severe cases can still happen in these age groups. Children and adults should follow the same guidance on self-quarantine and self-isolation if there is a risk they have been exposed or are showing symptoms. It is particularly important that children avoid contact with older people and others who are at risk of more severe disease .
COVID19 can survive temperatures higher than 25C. You can catch it no matter how sunny and warm it is. So, whatever the weather you should follow the official advice to protect yourself from the virus. Getting out into the sunshine, if you can, is still a good idea as this helps your body produce vitamin D which is important for your immune system .
You shouldn't use strong disinfectants to clean your body. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing an alcohol-based sanitizer on them will stop the virus spreading. Using stronger chemicals on your skin can be dangerous. Never drink disinfectant or hand sanitizer as this can do serious damage .
In terms of the numbers of those infected, recovered and those that have unfortunately passed on from COVID19 are approximately the following at the time of writing this article :
Comparing the number of those that have passed away to those that have been infected gives a 6.72% fatality rate. This number may seem high to those reading this article, and yes 311k number of deaths is high, especially in my opinion if those in power in the Western world could have handled and been a lot smarter in tackling the spread of COVID19.
But, without sounding too insensitive to the number of deaths as that is not my intention, i’m simply stating facts that i’ve researched online, let's compare COVID19 to other commonly known diseases and pathogens that we have seen in the past and their fatality rates :
We can see that the fatality rate is more severe for past pathogens when compared to COVID19. Of course we don’t know the full fatality rate of COVID19. The R rate of infection, the average length of recovery or if asymptomatic people can pass on the virus is all yet to be verified and proved. We will know in time as with most new viruses and pathogens.
To keep the number of deaths in context, approximately 4000 people a day are dying from COVID19 as the latest statistics show. These statistics do not show the percentage of those daily deaths that had underlying medical conditions in addition to COVID19. To place this into context, here is a breakdown of daily deaths of many other diseases :
When looking at these numbers above, COVID19 is near the bottom of this list as it currently stands with the data we have present. In conclusion to this article, I would suggest that staying alert and being sensible in what you do outdoors, especially if you’re a person who has serious underlying health conditions or are classified as elderly or live with those that have underlying health conditions.
Stay safe, be sensible, practice clean hygiene and if you do feel unwell, for now isolate at home and call your local health centre.
The current world that most of us live in is an unprecedented situation. Most of the world has gone into lockdown to avoid contracting COVID19. This has had drastic effects on most aspects of life. What we used to take for granted currently does not seem the norm. A simple trip to go watch a movie, pop to the gym or to meet friends for a coffee has been replaced with stay at home isolation and only necessary trips to control the spread of COVID19. Whether you agree with the current lockdown procedures or not is not the subject of this blog post however. In this post I'm going to focus on educating you on what a virus is and how they work.
A virus is a living thing. It's not an object or something that can be taken for granted. For starters, viruses are easily the most abundant life form on Earth, if you accept the proposition that they're alive. Try multiplying a billion by a billion, then multiply that by ten trillion, and that (10 to the 31st power) is the mind-numbing estimate of how many individual viral particles are estimated to populate this planet . Because of the great diversity among viruses, biologists have struggled with how to classify these entities and how to relate them to the conventional tree of life. They may represent genetic elements that gained the ability to move between cells. They may represent previously free-living organisms that became parasites. They may be the precursors of life as we know it .
So, now we have some background information on the amount of viruses out there, let's go into how they can enter the human body and the mechanisms they use to replicate/grow and mutate.
Viruses during transmission to the human body contain either DNA or RNA as its genetic material and are surrounded by a protein shell called a capsid and sometimes known as an envelope. Once the virus has passed into the host cell, the viral package is unpacked which results in the hijacking of that cell. The interaction between the host and the virus now depends on the viral genome.
In terms of viruses that use the DNA mechanism, viral DNA is transported to the nucleus of the hijacked cell for transcription and translation, but it remains as a separate module from the host DNA. Examples of these viruses are the herpes viruses, pox viruses and human papilloma viruses. DNA has a large genome with slow replication and DNA repair mechanisms.
For RNA viruses, the viral genome can remain in the host cell's cytoplasm and is translated into proteins or as a messenger RNA. What does this mean? RNA viruses are required to replicate their own genome as the host cell is unable to replicate the RNA genome template. Some examples of RNA viruses are the Rhinovirus (common cold), Hepatitis A and Hepatitis C viruses. RNA has a small genome, meaning it is very dependent on the host, it produces rapid replication and has no RNA repair mechanisms.
Now I could go into genome sequencing, talk about single stranded and double stranded DNA mapping, protein synthesis etc, but I would lose most of you, so i’ll keep it simple and say re-read the above two paragraphs again.
Once inside a cell, viruses release their genomes and also disrupt or hijack various parts of the cellular machinery. Viral genomes direct host cells to ultimately produce viral proteins (many a time halting the synthesis of any RNA and proteins that the host cell can use). Ultimately, viruses stack the deck in their favor, both inside the host cell and within the host itself by creating conditions that allow for them to spread. For example, when suffering from the common cold, one sneeze emits 20,000 droplets containing rhinovirus or coronavirus particles, according to "Molecular Biology of the Cell." Touching or breathing those droplets in, is all it takes for a cold to spread .
Unlike human cells or bacteria, viruses don't contain the chemical machinery (enzymes) needed to carry out the chemical reactions for life. Instead, viruses carry only one or two enzymes that decode their genetic instructions. So, a virus must have a host cell (bacteria, plant or animal) in which to live and make more viruses. Outside of a host cell, viruses cannot function. For this reason, viruses tread the fine line that separates living things from nonliving things. Most scientists agree that viruses are alive because of what happens when they infect a host cell .
Viruses lie around our environment all of the time just waiting for a host cell to come along. They can enter us through the eyes, nose, mouth or breaks in the skin. Once inside, they find a host cell to infect. For example, cold and flu viruses will attack cells that line the respiratory or digestive tracts. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, attacks the T-cells of the immune system. Regardless of the type of host cell, viruses follow the same basic steps to replicate :
In terms of how you feel when infected by a virus, this depends on the type of virus you have been infected with. A common Rhinovirus will for most people result in symptoms common with a cold. This results in coughing, sneezing, body aches as well as higher temperature sometimes as common symptoms. Note that higher temperature is your body heating itself to ‘burn’ the virus out of its system. In terms of recovery from the common cold, roughly 7-10 days of rest, intake of warm fluids and an increase in hearty soups as well as a higher intake of vitamin C can help facilitate this.
Other viruses, such as the Herpes viruses or Hepatitis viruses demonstrate different symptoms in the body, and for the above two viruses mentioned, you will require a consultation with a medical profession and require medicine to help with the symptoms of these viruses.
An example would be the Herpes Simplex type 1 or 2 viruses. They commonly cause cold sores and can be caught on most parts of the body, however lips and genital parts seem to be the most common area. Antiviral tablets may be prescribed for cold sores. If you get an unacceptable number of outbreaks, talk to your doctor. Antiviral tablets are a more effective way of treating and preventing cold sores than antiviral creams . Other factors such as diet, lifestyle and how much sun exposure can contribute to the recurrence of cold sores (discussing this will be a blog in itself).
Examples of the most famous viruses in the past have been [6,7]:
Now you should have a good grasp of what viruses are and how they work inside the human body. In my next blog, I will discuss COVID19 in detail, what it is, how it attaches itself to a cell, how the body reacts to it and what can be done to avoid, or as I like to think, to live alongside COVID19.