As much as they seem to control our lives right now, viruses are not really living things. So how can a non-living thing possibly control the fate of my Amazon order and date nights with friends so drastically?
We need to understand every bit of the virus to get over the hump. We need to know how it spreads, what it does to our bodies and what we must do to cut it back.
What the heck is Coronavirus, anyway?
The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Virus 2 that popped out of Wuhan in December 2019 is the cause of COVID 19, or the familiarly dubbed coronavirus, that is ruining our routines while boosting Zoom calls across the globe.
Viruses are tiny and pack a mean punch, too. If bacteria had eyes, they wouldn't even be able to see a virus: a little fatty hull surrounding bits of genetic material and few proteins. A merciless and parasitic copycat. And though a virus is not living, it activates after entering a living cell. Our bodies' cells are essentially portals and a fertility ground for the virus to propagate.
Because we ingest the viral droplets through our respiratory systems, our lungs are the first victims. Epithelial cells line all the organs of our body, including our lungs. These cells have something called an ACE2 receptor, into which these demons of a new dawn connect. Once connected, they inject their infectious genetic material into a cell.
So you may be thinking, so what? It’s just one cell out of billions. But just a single infected cell jump-starts the entire process!
Our cells operate on two functions: to replicate and multiply. Think of it as a total hijacking of one of your body’s cells and using its replicating mechanism to recopy its ‘viral DNA’ over and over again.
The sad news is that our cells have a breaking point; once the viral particles have copied themselves and infected the cell, the cell will essentially self-destruct, its boundaries melt away, leaving the viral particles to proliferate through the body and attack other cells.
Vicious build-up, right?
Within just 10 days, your lungs have gone from kosher to code-red with millions of cells having become infected and billions of viruses swarming through your lungs.
Snowballing from from bodily virus to systemic pandemic
As with all viruses, the real problem isn't in the viral particles themselves. Those guys are the instigators that like to push your body’s buttons.
The real danger lies within us: our own immune system sends out its mercenaries to fight off the infected cells, unleashing a battle that pits the COVIDs against the immunes. And in war, it isn’t unusual to turn sides. Some of your body's immune cells turn to the dark side and are infected by the viral cells, too.
This is when all hell and confusion break loose. The immune system goes temporarily haywire and starts attacking all cells indiscriminately, the good and the bad - making it all one very big ugly.
Your lung’s real estate is limited and their lining starts turning into the busted down fence surrounding a once happy neighborhood. Think of a rickety fence that becomes weather beaten with storm after storm.
The same goes for your overwhelmed lungs. After the viral cells overtake this juicy real estate and permeate the fence, they enter the bloodstream and, of course, spread to the rest of your body.
In some cases, your immune system recovers from the self-imposed attack. In other cases...you can guess the next toll this virus takes on a body.
The danger lies in how highly contagious COVID19 is. If the yearly flu is a house fire then COVID 19 is a wildfire. One is maintained with hoses and the other, unpredictable and spreading.
Something no one can ignore is such a dangerous surge; many people at once are becoming infected, the rate of which is exacerbated by improper handling of the situation. Gathering at close quarters, talking directly to each other’s faces without facial coverings and improper sanitation of your skin and surfaces make it easy to ingest the droplets from another infected person within 6 feet of you.
With a sudden skyrocket of cases, health systems are overwhelmed and people can't be treated. Your chance of getting treated when you are ill reduces considerably when resources exhausted. And we’re not just talking medical supplies like basic sanitizers and respirators. Healthcare workers fall ill and are exhausted, too.
And then we are left with the horrible responsibility of choosing who gets to live and who gets to die.
The people lined up to get treated are not on some faraway shore. They are in your community.
This blog has felt pretty dreary so far, hasn’t it? So let’s flip the scales. It’s in our hands - literally and figuratively - to flip things around for better prospects. When and if proper counter measures are put in place, we can slow the spread of the virus considerably.
It’s gone so far already - so what can I do?
While in the grip of the pandemic, we are all in a giant learning curve. Only time and more cases can inform us of the type of vaccine we can create to cure ourselves.
So while experts and healthcare workers are doing their jobs above and beyond the call of duty, why don’t we chip in our fair share?
With a bit of social engineering, we can make our own recipe for healing. If we are going to be part of the solution and not the problem, there are two courses of action to take:
- Don’t get infected
- Don’t infect others.
And let us tell you that it’s easier done than said!
The ingredients for healing
1.Wash your hands. The virus is encased in a layer of fat. Soap works to break that shell, melting the fatty membrane away and letting water wash away any viral particles that remain. Short on hand soap? We’ve got a non-alcoholic hydrating sanitizer that decimates germs without damaging your hands. And seriously, out of any habit we should build, sanitizing our hands is top on the list to curb any illness.
2.Socialize at a safe distance. Put hugs and handshakes on the backburner. An FFP2 or FFP3 mask gives you the greatest certainty when you venture out of your home to do all your essential tasks. And if that isn’t in your arsenal, a certified face mask is the most basic preventative to keep you and others virus-free. Otherwise, this is a great time to learn about the things that bring us joy while we stay at home, like family bonding and self-reflection.
3.Quarantine yourself. Avoid travel and travelers! And if you must travel, do the common courtesy of not breathing into anyone’s face til 14 days after landing when the coast is clear.
Overall, the most basic thing we can do to keep ourselves and our communities healthy is keep cleanliness a priority. That’s nothing new, right? Valuing life and health shouldn’t be new either. Let’s not lose sight of those values. The sooner we value health precautions, the sooner we can get back to our Saturday nights out!
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