Covid-19 the Novel Coronavirus
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world, we have been forced to change the way we interact, work, shop, and live all in the name of safety. Government officials have taken measures with mask mandates, social distancing guidelines, and even curfews to curb the spread of this illness. We have all heard about the virus and the threat it poses to public safety. However, studying the virus and how it works is important to developing safety measures that can protect us all.
Coronaviruses are actually a class of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. SARS-CoV-2 is the acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2. This particular virus is responsible for causing Covid-19. Covid-19 is an RNA virus and there are 4 classes of RNA viruses. These viruses use a process called reverse transcription to code its genome or DNA into host cells. It essentially goes into a healthy cell and takes over the cells machinery forcing the healthy cell to produce copies of the virus. It continues to use up the healthy cell until apoptosis, or cell death occurs. This phenomenon causes scientists to classify viruses as non-living organisms because they cannot create their own energy and they cannot reproduce.
Symptoms have varied from person to person, they often differ in age groups, and in those who are predisposed due to other health problems. A fever, shortness of breath, malaise, rhinorrhea, and cephalgia continue to be the most common symptoms across all age groups.
A growing number of children that have been infected have developed MIS-C. Which is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children. This can be life threatening as major organs like the heart and lungs become inflamed.
Early on in the pandemic some patients with Covid-19 developed blood clots. Doctors were trying to find the link between the virus and blood clotting. At first it was thought to be due to inactivity of the patient while recovering. So as a precautionary measure blood thinners were given to some patients depending on other factors of their health. As the number of infected continued to rise doctors began to believe the link to Covid-19 and blood clots, were due to the bodies natural inflammatory response to help rid the body of the virus.
As of January 2021 there are 21 million cases and over 350,000 deaths in the United States. World wide there are over 86 million cases with just under 2 million deaths.
The New Variant of Covid-19 and How It Differs
Viruses are constantly undergoing mutations through recombination upon using other cells to reproduce for them. This process causes antigenic drift which means the antibodies or vaccine that prevented infection in the past. Are now rendered useless or less effective due to the mutation of the virus.
The new version of the virus called VUI – 202012/01 (Variant of Concern, year 2020, month 12, variant 01), has been prominent in Southern England. The fact is epidemiologists have found other strains which will naturally occur as the virus spreads. However the VUI – 202012/01 variant is predicted to be up to 70% more infectious. That being said there is currently no direct evidence that is conclusive on the higher infection rate. Only that the virus has changed and the infection rate in that particular variant is appearing to grow in some areas.
What scientists are using to predict this infection rate is the glycoprotein spikes that are found on the virus. These are the infamous spikes that are found on the surface of coronavirus pictures that have been plastered all over the media since the beginning of the outbreak. The glycoproteins are made of glycans and amino acids and they allow the virus to attach to healthy cells and mitigate the invasion of its genome. The change in the glycoprotein spikes can prevent antibodies from attaching to the virus. The change can also allow better adhesion to healthy cells.
In reality there are many different variants of the virus, but they may emerge for a time and die off. Other more viral variants may live and spread and become dominant. The major factor that promotes the virality of this virus as with all others, is social contact or social distancing. This is why social contact exacerbates and prolongs the spread of this disease.
New Variants and Locations Where They Have Been Reported
As stated earlier England has a new variant with over 1100 cases. This variant has taken center stage as its genome has several prominent mutations. It has also been found in over 30 other countries including the United States. That particular strain has been found in Florida, Colorado, California, and New York. Another strain named D614G has been found in South Africa, Denmark, and Ireland. During the month of December an additional variant was detected in South Africa called 501Y.V2.
Solutions to the Crisis
A vaccine is now available that can work to limit the spread of Covid-19. For the elderly, front line workers, and those who are at risk due to other health issues. This could be a very good way to protect themselves.
Proper handwashing albeit ridiculously simple is one of the most effective forms of protection. Hand sanitizers are very good to use, but must be used in moderation as the natural flora of the skin can be disrupted and actually give rise to infection if over used.
Masks of any type that can limit particles are extremely effective. Although there are people that cannot wear masks due to pulmonary issues. Realistically, people with pulmonary ailments tend to be more at risk for Covid-19 as retroviruses are very opportunistic.
That being said working from home, ordering groceries to be delivered or picked up are great ways to limit the spread.
Researchers have found that particles can spread form talking, singing, and even laughing. So even while wearing a mask or face covering social distancing is the optimal way to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
As with all viruses Covid-19 will mutate and adapt. Understanding how viruses work have given rise to ways we can protect ourselves which include vaccines, personal protection equipment, and social protective behavior.
Pierce, B.A. (2008). Genetics: A Conceptual Approach. W.H. Freeman & Company
RNA viruses from Medicine net
Coronaviruses from the Mayo Clinic
Covid-19 signs and symptoms from the CDC
Children with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome from the CDC
Blood clotting in relation to Covid-19 from John Hopkins Medicine
Covid-19 case numbers from the New York Times
Virus mutations from the National Center for Biotechnology Information
Covid-19 new variant from Science Focus
New variant infection rate from Medpage Today
New variant case numbers in England from Live Science
Covid-19 variants in other countries from the World Health Organization
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 E Randall