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VIRUS 101 - PART 1

I geeked out this week about the global phenomenon that has many of us dealing with cabin fever and practicing “social distancing”, a term we didn’t really think of until a few days ago!

The first line in one of my favorite books, “The Future of Life” by E.O.Wilson has always stuck with me, and seems particularly relevant right now: 'The totality of life, known as the biosphere to scientists and creation to theologians, is a membrane of organisms wrapped around Earth so thin it cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet is so internally complex that most species composing it remain undiscovered.”

Consider that even the most “sterile” surfaces are still covered by this gossamer veil. Much of it is as crucial to our existence as air. Bacterias that support life and well-being, microscopic critters that look entirely unbelievable and even gross, but still live along our lash lines without causing much trouble, yeasts, spores….itty-bitty tiny things.

For the most part, when their numbers go off balance, the miracle of IT ALL quickly works towards homeostasis until it’s all symbiotic or non-threatening again. Sometimes, we have to step in with more aggressive measures like anti-fungals, antibiotics, stronger cleansers or certain changes to support the natural systems.

Each person’s “biome”, the collection of all these microscopic elements, may seem gross to think about, but without it our digestion goes haywire, every tiny cut would become a septic mess and any exposure to anything like Staph, colds, etc. would instantly make us ill. We are actually 100 times more "biome" than "ourselves"!

We may not understand every aspect of the bacteria, yeasts, molds and spores, but they are biologically crucial. They have DNA, the building block of life as we know it, which also means we have ways to control and kill them.

The really odd, fascinating and infuriating thing about viruses is that most are only RNA. It is only a fragment of code.

I kept my beloved husband, who happens to be a fancy-pants, very smart heart doc, on the phone way too long trying to really understand this as a reality rather than just a text book definition.

A virus is, at it’s core and distilled to a really simplified definition, is just a bit of f*cked up code. Like a computer virus that does demented things to your world. Makes me think of the commercial with Mayhem!

“Viruses today are thought of as being in a gray area between living and nonliving: they cannot replicate on their own but can do so in truly living cells and can also affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly….”

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose — that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells.

As part of their natural defenses against viral infection, human cells have proteins that latch onto dsRNA, setting off a cascade of reactions that prevents the virus from replicating itself. However, many viruses can outsmart that system by blocking one of the steps further down the cascade.

Anti-bacterials kill bacteria. Anti-virals, on the other hand, don’t necessarily kill the target, they attempt to inhibit the development.

We don’t have cures for most viruses. We have management systems, ways to reduce spread, symptoms and ward off infection. We’ve been able to nearly eradicate some of the worst viruses through global efforts. Some really annoying viruses persist, with their little trail of chaos, such as colds, herpes + warts, but they’re more irksome than deadly.

Doc Philips, the hubby, says that of all the bacterial and viral infections, Ebola would be the most horrendous if it were to become a global pandemic.

We are currently in the midst of a viral pandemic that has us mostly indoors, possibly freaking out, and reading lots of weird information online. The shady hustlers are grinning and causing skin burns, sanitizer companies are deep in profit and grocery store shelves are emptied.

Queen and Her Poison

Coronavirus was first described in detail in 1960’s and are actually quite common! They are the source of many of the common colds we get and recover from regularly. It is interesting that the word Virus comes from Latin word for Venom, and Corona is a Spanish word for Crown. That makes this virus the Venom Queen!

“MERS” (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and Swine Flu are also types of coronavirus, but with higher mortality rates. SARS had a mostality rate of over 10%, and up to 50% for older adults! But, we have not seen a case of SARS reported since 2004, thanks to quick action taken on a worldwide scale. MERS has a mortality rate of nearly 34%, but only two cases have ever been confirmed in the US. In comparison, seasonal flu virus accounts for throusands of deaths, but is so prevalent that the mortality rate is .02%.

SARS and MERS did not display the global reach that Coronavirus-19 has. In less than 3 months, it has spread to every continent except for the iciest regions of Antartica. It is highly contagious, and has a higher mortality rate than the common cold or flu, but also significantly milder symptoms for most of the population.

Not to make light of a situation, but compared to a “zombie” virus that completely overtakes caterpillars, forces it to behave in ways that go against all natural instinct in order to infect other caterpillars, then leaves it dead and gooey, Covid-19 is actually not the worst pandemic for us to be dealing with, and some of the things we are learning may help us in the event of more catastrophic occurrences.

So why all the chaos? Truth is, I am not quite sure. (see update below) Although, I am also not a senior with a compromised immune system. I actually think I am getting over the Covid-19 virus. I have all the symptoms, including the poop issues and fever. It has been mild and I chose to self-quarantine.

I did leave the house one time upon discovering the the delivery services for groceries were not available, and if I am going to be slightly sick in bed, I needed some food. I practiced all the safe things, only made one quick stop, was careful not to touch anything without gloves on, did what I had to quickly and got back into bed. I hope this means I am now immune, although we don’t know if this is the case with this current virus…

By the end of the year, MOST OF US will have been exposed, more than 80% of the cases will be very mild, we don’t need mass hysteria or panic, and, for the record, I used a regular amount of toilet paper so did not feel the need to stock up a year’s worth! Social-distancing will help protect others whose immune systems may not fare so well. Hysteria won’t help anyone...

Keep reading PART 2 for a few life hacks, expert tips, skin protection and good ol' common sense reminders....

In the meantime, thanks to this gorgeous man, who uses Skin and Sky daily, for allowing my incessant brain-picking,...

xo, mpp

*UPDATE ON "WHY THE HYPE": Doc Philips says - "It is a new form of an old bug, so we have never been exposed, so it is like the story in the "War of the Worlds", the aliens were exposed to something they had never been exposed to, and we have no immunity because it is new. So everyone is susceptible. Another thought is the immunocompromised, and we all have those people in our lives, or are one. Also the numbers that get ill, and this overwhelmed our medical systems. We have a limited number of doctors, nurses, equipment such as respirators. Inn Italy, this shortage has been a huge issue. If people are exposed over time, it allows the hospitals to have time to take care of them, rather than have people die mostly because of shortage of care. When we overwhelm the hospitals, all other issues become more drastic. People will die from things they don't have to deal with such as heart-attacks and accidents, because the capacity to care for those patients isn't there. The majority of people will not die from Coronavirus, but more will die than necessary if medical systems are overwhelmed.

We shouldn't panic or be hysterical, BUT IT IS IMPORTANT TO RESPECT THE REALITY OF THIS, AND COOPERATE WITH THE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM REAL EXPERTS. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP IS KEY! And right now, we are not seeing this in the way we should. They are failing. We have not even tested 1000 people in the US. Luckily, we have non-political experts who are leading.

Money should be poured into hospitals, not bailing out the cruise industries!"

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