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Just what the heck is coronavirus?

First: Remain Calm!

CDC picture of coranavirus

As of 3/10/2020, Colorado has 12 cases of coronavirus (COVID-19.)

I have been preparing for its arrival in a unique way which is described below.  But first, remember the coronavirus (COVID-19) is a flu virus.  We’ve all been infected by a coronavirus, just not this particular strain.  It is constantly mutating, but there is no evidence that any of the mutations are less virulent.

I say I’ve been preparing, because I’ve been preparing for the flu by strengthening my immune system. You prepare for COVID-19 just like you’d do things to strengthen your immune system against any bacteria or flu.

Now, you have a cold or the flu?  A cold is from the neck up.  If it is in your chest, it could be the flu.  Not necessarily COVID-19.  Now, one difference between the regular flu virus and COVID-19 is that COVID-19 is very infectious.  A single person with regular flu can infect maybe one person.  With COVID-19, an infected person can spread it to 2-3 people.

What if you have a virus?

It’s kind of late for prevention.  The status of your immune system will dictate a lot.  Most people will be fine.  Some may be asymptomatic; some may get sick and die.  You can still try some of the ideas below to shorten or lessen the possible severity.   But, it’ll be kind of like closing the barn doors after the horse gets out.  

About Viruses

What is a virus?  A virus (Latin for poison) is essentially a strand of DNA or RNA enclosed in protein.  There are millions of types of viruses[1], but only about 5000 have been identified[2].  Viruses are much smaller than bacteria  (20-400 nm vs 1000 nm or 1 micron.) Remember a nanometer (nm) is 10-9 (10 raised to -9 power) meters or about 1000 times smaller than a micron.  For reference, a human hair ranges from 17-181 microns in diameter.   So these buggers are really tiny.  Since they aren’t cells like bacteria, they replicate by invading a cell’s nucleus (your cells) replacing the DNA instructions for making copies of the cell and turning them into virus factories.  Very, very clever.

Are viruses alive?  This depends on your definition of alive. Viruses can’t survive or reproduce on their own through mitosis or meiosis. But they seem to be able to reconfigure themselves and/or mutate.

What can we do to protect ourselves from viral infections?

Viruses survive and multiply best in people with compromised immune systems.  The single best defense is to get plenty of sleep.  Remember that you are constantly being attacked by various viruses.  The common cold is caused by rhinoviruses (and, no, it doesn’t have a horn!! LOL,) with as many as over 200 variants.  As I mentioned above, viruses mutate frequently.  The following are simple prevention techniques provided by the Mayo Clinic website to help avoid getting the flu:

“the flu vaccine is your best defense against the flu, but there are additional steps you can take to help protect yourself from the flu and other viruses. These steps include the following:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on your hands if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
  • Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area.
  • Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, eat a nutritious diet and manage your stress.

        You can also help prevent the spread of the flu by staying home if you do get sick”

There are some drugs to help against viral infections, but they must be administered early, like as soon as you get any symptoms.  Besides the ways listed above to prevent yourself from getting viral infections, you can always get a flu vaccine shot.  A flu shot vaccine consists of being injected with non-active (dead) versions of a virus.  Your body’s natural immune system spots the dead virus and makes antibodies to protect you.  Unfortunately, the antibodies your body makes are basically designed for the specific virus they detect.

Equally unfortunate, the flu vaccine only targets specific viruses.  Early in 2019, prior to the flu season, scientists at places like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) try to predict (guess) the probable strains of the flu virus for the next season.  (And, none of them saw the Coronavirus coming.)  As you’ve already guessed, they’re often wrong.  Nevertheless, the CDC tells people to get the flu vaccine shot because even if they’re wrong about the strain of the virus, it may provide some protection

[1] Breitbart M. Here a virus, there a virus, everywhere the same virus?. Trends in Microbiology. 2005;13(6):278–84.

[2] Dimmock, N.J; Easton, Andrew J; Leppard, Keith (2007) Introduction to Modern Virology sixth edition, Blackwell Publishing,