- Atara Mester
Coronavirus: A Summary
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently plaguing the Earth, infecting people and killing them alike. This article will explain some details about this disease, its cause, how it works, its variants, its vaccine, and how to prevent it.
COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China in November 2019, and was discovered at the beginning of 2020. At first the government thought that it was just a case of “abnormal pneumonia” and that it would go away. As it quickly circulated around the globe, this theory was disregarded. Inquiries were made, and little by little the truth was revealed. Coronavirus has forced many countries to do lockdowns and set in place new laws, regulations, and measures. Lots of individuals have lost their jobs and their lives. However, it has also made people more careful about their health and other’s health, which is one of the only good things that COVID gave us.
How Does the Coronavirus Work?
According to Scripps Research, SARS-CoV-2 itself is made up of many parts:, RNA, spike proteins, viral envelope and more. RNA is a copy of DNA, it contains information about what makes you who you are, or in this case what makes the virus like it is and what it does. The RNA is located in the center of the particle. The viral envelope is like an armour that surrounds the RNA, and it protects it from the outside world. It also helps the virus infect human cells by coding for the proteins that are needed. After the virus infects the respiratory system, its spike proteins, which are like antennae all around the viral envelope, attach themselves to human cells so that the RNA can enter them. In this case, they attach themselves to a particular enzyme called the ACE2 receptor. The RNA then moves to the area where the cells reproduce themselves (all human cells have this). This area, the ribosome, is basically like a cloning machine, but real and very small. Here, instead of letting the cells continue to create proteins, the virus’s RNA uses the body’s ribosome to make copies of itself, which infect the body and end up in other people’s respiratory systems via moisture droplets that pass through the air. The virus’s membrane hides it from the cell, but after multiple copies are made, the body’s immune system detects them and the immune cells try to fight off the viruses. Most of the time, some of the viruses escape from the nose or the mouth and spread through the air, and that goes on in a cycle.
What are the origins of COVID-19?
No one knows exactly how this virus began circulating, but there are many theories. It is most probable that it was a disease first found in bats and then passed on to another species of animal, creating a new variant. In the report of The Francis Crick Institute, a virus found in an animal called a pangolin has a few structural similarities to SARS-CoV-2. This brings up a possible answer to our question, but it has yet to be confirmed. Coronavirus then spread to humans though illegal markets, where animals were being sold and killed on the spot. It was then named SARS-CoV-2, after a virus that is very similar in nature to COVID-19. Some believe that coronavirus actually came from a laboratory. There are a large number of other theories about its origin, all being investigated, but this one is most likely because most of the other viruses from the coronavirus family (or the coronaviridae) were transmitted in this way. However, an exception is the MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome), which originated in camels.
(pangolin, left, and bat, right, two animals that are suspected to be the cause of COVID-19. credits: Unsplash)
Variants of Coronavirus
A variant, or mutation, forms over time when an already existing virus evolves into something a little bit different. This happens because RNA has a tendency to change over time. Some kinds of diseases mutate less, and some mutate more. Sometimes no considerable change is made, but at other times the infectiousness and the deadliness increases or decreases. According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, there are many variants of COVID-19, including the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Lambda, Mu, Kappa, Zeta, Eta, Iota and more, but the most relevant and major are Wuhan, Delta, and Omicron. The Wuhan, or the Wuhan strain, is the original coronavirus that started in China at the end of 2019. The Delta first appeared in India, and is much more contagious than the Wuhan. This is why it was named a variant of concern (a more dangerous, infectious, or fatal strain). Finally, the Omicron was discovered in South Africa, but we do not yet know if it is more contagious or deadly than the other variants since it is quite new.
(how variants form. credits: The Conversation)
There are three known vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. US News says that Moderna and Pfizer are 95% effective once the second shot is taken, and J&J is only 66% effective. This may be because only one dose can be given with J&J and because it uses a different system to prevent COVID. However, the latter also somewhat protects against the new variant, Omicron, while the other two were only tested on the original strain. All three give booster shots (an extra dose given to strengthen the effect of the vaccine). Most countries are now doing third doses for adults and some are even doing fourth doses! Another breakthrough is that children from five and up are now allowed to get the vaccine in Switzerland.
(COVID vaccine credits: Unsplash)
There are many ways to prevent this illness. The first is to wear a mask correctly in public or around others. That way if there are any virus particles in the air you won’t breathe them in, and therefore you won’t be sick. Masks need to be changed every few hours to make sure they are sanitary. The second is to put some distance between you and other people, and not make contact. If you need to sneeze or cough, you should do so into the crook of your arm or into a handkerchief. Another very important thing to do is to regularly wash or sanitize your hands. This stops a potential virus from spreading. Even if you are vaccinated, you must still follow these regulations because vaccinated people can still get COVID-19.
(the official guidelines published by the Federal Council of Geneva)
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