Do you know what a virus is ? Do you remember what we learned about a virus in our science book during our school days ? Do you know how a virus starts infecting ? Do you know how it gets transmitted from one person to another ? Do you know how dangerous a virus can be ? Do you know what an Influenza is ? Do you know how a virus outbreak can be stopped ? Do you know how to be safe in terms of a virus outbreak ?
Let me walk you through our school science notes about virus. 👇
A Virus is nothing but a microbial parasite which cannot live long by itself. It needs a host to replicate/reproduce and live longer. It is very small in size compared to bacteria. Actually bacteria which is not a parasite is very small when compared to the size of the living cell. So the virus is very small in size comparatively. But Virus, Bacteria, Fungi are all pathogens although they are of different sizes. Viruses are about one-millionth of an inch (17 to 300 nanometers) long. They can only be observed via Electron Microscope. It seems a scientist once discovered a filter to separate the bacteria from water to stop the bacterial infections. But even after drinking that filtered water, Infections started coming. That was a time when electron microscope was yet to be discovered. They had only light Microscopes at that time. so he just predicted that there are much smaller microbial pathogens than bacteria. And later they discovered one of those is the parasite called Virus, which consists of only genetic material (DNA/RNA) which is covered by proteins and other protective membranes. This genetic material is what differentiates the virus from one another, like it does for any other living species. This genetic material contains the genetic instructions of how to replicate itself when it gets attached to a host cell. Simply, it contains the information required to build specific proteins that are needed for the evolution of it. These discoveries were all made possible because of the invention of the Electron Microscope.
No one is very sure about how the first Virus came into existence. But the viruses actually transfer from one person to another via some agents which can be air, water, bodily fluids like mucus, blood, saliva, sexual fluids, infected surfaces that we touch, blood sucking insects etc.
To understand this clearly let’s take one of the example ( Novel CoronaVirus) :
If a virus infected person sneezes near you and if you are around 6 feet distance from them, there is a chance that the fluid particle which carries the virus can fall on your nose or mouth or eyes. This will allow the virus to enter your body. Also if you touch the surface where the sneezed out fluid falls, and if you touch any part of your face without washing your hand with soap or sanitizers, then there is a chance that the virus can enter your body. The virus will stay in an inert state when it is outside because it needs a host to replicate or reproduce. It does not have the resources to carry out the chemical reactions that are necessary for life in it’s own. So it needs a host cell for support. When the fluids with virus enter our respiratory tract via our nose or mouth, it will start attacking the cells covering the nasal cavities first, slowly it will move on to our deeper throat, then respiratory tract, lungs, bloodstream etc. Thus the virus starts infecting the whole body slowly.
When a virus, attacks a host cell the following happens:
- Some viruses enter the cell itself directly but majority of it first get attached to the host cell. (Adsorption)
- Then it releases its genetic material (viral enzymes) with the respective genetic instructions into the host cell. (Entry)
- Once inside the cell, the viral enzymes take over those enzymes of the host cell and begin making copies of the viral genetic instructions and new viral proteins using the virus’s genetic instructions and the cell’s enzyme machinery. (Replication)
- The new copies of the viral genetic instructions are packaged inside the new protein coats to make new viruses. (Assembly)
- The new viruses thus created, break free from the host cell. This process is called Lysis. (Release)
- After breaking free, they attack other host cells and the process continues.
Some of the viruses will not completely destroy the host cell. They just punch out of the host cell membrane (Budding). But the majority of it kills the host cell to replicate itself (Lysis).
A virus can trigger the body to release histamine, a chemical that inflames your nasal membranes and causes them to produce a lot of mucus which is also called Snot. When the virus breaks open the cells in the linings of the nasal cavities, the mucal fluids start to flow freely there and thus runny nose starts. And slowly when it reaches the deeper throat and respiratory tract, it attacks the cells covering the linings of it and it can lead to sore throat because of the collection of mucus there. Viral infections that affect your lungs are very harmful and more dangerous.Viruses then also can mix with your bloodstream and can attack muscle cells and would cause you muscle aches. That is the reason you feel tired when you have a viral attack.
So why do you get a fever when you have an extreme cold or a viral infection or other microbial attack. When you are affected by a virus or other microbe, your immune system responds to the infection, and in the process of fighting, it produces chemicals called pyrogens that cause your body temperature to increase. This fever actually helps you to fight the infection by slowing down the rate of viral reproduction, because most of your body’s chemical reactions have an optimal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). If your temperature rises slightly above this, the reactions slow down. This immune response continues until the viruses are eliminated from your body. However, if you sneeze, you can spread thousands of new viruses into the environment to await another host.
A virus can have a completely different genetic material in the future than what it has now. It will not be the same from time to time since it mutates at a faster pace. The genetic material structure it has today will not be the same next year. The vaccine which can cure the disease caused by it today cannot do it next year. So a virus outbreak is always difficult to bring into control. Influenza viruses are majorly of this type.
Some viruses can be in “sleep mode” inside the genetic instructions of the host cells for years before reproducing. Influenza viruses like Coronavirus can show symptoms from 2 to 14 days. But viruses like Human Immunodeficiency Virus can also take a year sometimes to show the first symptom. Influenza viruses which are the one which cause the common flu attack the cells of the nasal cavities, respiratory tracts and the lungs and they give rise to acute and harsh issues. Whereas viruses like HIV attack the T-cells of the immune system, this decreases the immunity of the individual at a gradual rate and thus directing him towards other diseases. Mostly HIV affected patients will get affected by Tuberculosis. HIV can be prevented from spreading by taking a small precautionary/ preventive measure. But Influenza is a more dangerous and highly communicable one. It can affect lakhs and lakhs of people in a very short time. The world has seen outbreaks of flu viruses like Ebola, Polio, Swine flu and now Covid-19. This flu’s if not carefully handled it can destroy the whole world. Ebola and Sars were the most destructive flu’s, till Covid-19 took over. Covid-19 is the most dangerous virus the world has seen till date. And now it is killing China and Italy to the core. So more care is needed for Influenza attack.
To prevent yourselves from these viruses you have to take the respective precautionary measures carefully. For Influenza viruses, you have to wash your hands before touching your face. You should maintain a distance from the people who are infected. If you are infected you should sneeze with a tissue or a kerchief or the elbow of your hand covering your nose. You should follow all the medical advice given by the experts carefully. For other Viruses like HIV, you should avoid getting in contact with any kind of bodily fluids of the infected person. You should not use the same blades or razors used by them, should not touch their blood if they got a cut and more importantly no sexual intercourse. There are many other viruses which need specific precautionary/preventive measures too.
So, now how to treat you if you have a viral infection. There are antibiotics, antiviral drugs, antifungal drugs etc. Antibiotics are for bacteria, Antiviral drugs for virus and antifungals for fungi etc. Antibiotics or Antifungals will not cure you if you have viral infection and vice versa. Because they all have different ways of working. Most antibiotics interfere with the reproduction of bacteria, hindering their creation of new genetic instructions or new cell walls. Because viruses do not carry out their own biochemical reactions, antibiotics do not affect them. Antiviral drugs are a class of medication used specifically for treating viral infections rather than bacterial ones. Most antivirals are used for specific viral infections, while a broad-spectrum antiviral is effective against a wide range of viruses. Unlike most antibiotics, antiviral drugs do not destroy their target pathogen, instead they inhibit their development. Most of the viral infections can be self controlled by our immune system but some may need the antivirals. Antivirals intake must be started within two days of the onset of symptoms. That’s when they can interfere with the important enzymes of the influenza virus. This interference helps to keep the virus from leaving one cell and infecting others.
Other than Antivirals, Vaccines are one other thing which can give a complete cure and may also prevent the infection from occurring again for a lifetime. So, what are Vaccines ? Vaccines are nothing but the medicines which can make our body and it’s immune system react more to the pathogens and thus producing more antibodies. A Vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe, its toxins, or one of its surface proteins. It works by pre-infecting the body with a weaker version of the same virus, so it knows how to produce the right antibodies as soon as the virus starts reproducing again.
Also, because viruses reproduce so quickly and so often, they can often change slightly. Sometimes, mistakes creep into their genetic instructions. These changes might alter the protein coat slightly, so one year’s batch of vaccine might not be as effective against the same type of virus next year. This is why new vaccines must be produced constantly to fight viral infections and prevent outbreaks.Your immune system is fighting a pathogen each and every minute but the only thing is, if any new type of pathogen attacks your body next minute, it will take time for your T-cells to find the respective antibodies which can suppress the pathogen. So, we use Vaccines to aid your immune system in this process. And since the genetic material of a virus has potential to change over the time, the same vaccine cannot be helpful in aiding your immune system all the time. This is not the same for all types of pathogen attacks. But in some cases. There are cases like Polio, where once you are injected with a vaccine you will protected from that pathogen for life.
Now let’s come to the seriousness of Covid -19. Currently the affected cases of Covid-19 is higher than 3,75,000 around the world and the death toll has crossed above 16000. But most of us are not taking it seriously. We all know how disciplined China is as a country and Chinese as an individual. When even China suffered that much. I just could not imagine the condition of India getting into such situations. We all can notice how Italy is suffering like hell now. They are giving up on many things because everything went out of control. They are running for help to many nations of the world. Italy is just a 6 Crore populated country. I have heard from many sources that now in Italy they are treating those people only who can be saved. They are leaving very old people and people with other illnesses without treatments. I am not sure how true it is. But if it is true it is horrible. In a country of 6 Crores people, they are suffering because of insufficient beds in hospitals, insufficient masks, hand sanitizers, oxygen cylinders etc etc. The hospitals with 250 beds are getting filled with 3000 people. There are not enough facilities or resources to burn or dispose of that highly increasing number of dead people. They are suffering literally too much. When a country with 6 Crore population suffers like that, I am thinking what will happen if the same situation arises in the country with 134 Crore population. Just imagine in India if 30% of them are infected which means 42 Crore people. Suppose imagine 20% needs hospitalization which is 8 Crore and 10% need ventilation which is 4 Crore. But as of now total ventilators in India is approximately around 1 lakh. Just imagine what can happen to that remaining 3 crore and 99 lakh people. Actually this is not a worst case scenario. If you think about the worst case scenario, it will become a nightmare. But yet, people here are careless and they are not taking it seriously. I was so fed up when I saw those videos of North Indian people forming a crowd on the roads, walking a parade, drumming the plates and ringing bells on the roads. Do you have brains in the first place ? You thank the doctors when the virus pandemic stops. Why Now during the starting stage ? We all know they deserve respect and salute. But do it in your heart till everything gets solved and then you can celebrate. Also I can see people getting crowded on the roads buying out things like the world is getting closed forever. Government is announcing clearly that all the necessary shops which sells day to day consumables will work throughout the shutdown. Then why do you have to panic and run and make crowds and spread the virus among not only yourselves but to everyone around you home too. People should use their brain. You are all leading India into a daylight nightmare by doing this. You should understand the situation. Many countries are starting to find Vaccines now. So this social distancing will be required now for a minimal time only.
We have to be so careful so that the situation in Italy will not replicate here in India like the speed of a influenza virus replication.
#Use your f**king brains.
#Remember now it’s Either Rest in Home or Rest in Peace. And It’s your choice !!!!!