THE NATURE OF VIRUSES, COVID 19 AND THE NEW NORMAL WAY OF LIFE
By Dr. Paul Uche Esegbue
COVID-19 CAUSES MORE SEVERE DISEASE THAN SEASONAL INFLUENZA. WHILE MANY PEOPLE GLOBALLY HAVE BUILT UP IMMUNITY TO SEASONAL FLU STRAINS, COVID-19 IS A NEW VIRUS TO WHICH NO ONE HAS IMMUNITY. THAT MEANS MORE PEOPLE ARE SUSCEPTIBLE TO INFECTION, AND SOME WILL SUFFER SEVERE DISEASE.
The virus is a microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium that cannot grow or reproduce apart from a living cell. A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and to replicate itself. Viruses such as the common cold, influenza, chickenpox, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), measles, rubella. chickenpox/shingles, roseola, fifth disease.
chikungunya virus infection
HOWEVER, THE MOST COMMON VIRAL DISEASES, THE COMMON COLD, AND THE FLU ARE SELF-LIMITING IN GENERALLY HEALTHY PEOPLE. THAT MEANS THAT TREATED OR NOT, IT WILL RESOLVE ON ITS OWN WITH NONE OR MILD COMPLICATIONS.
Viral infections in animals provoke an immune response that usually eliminates the infecting virus. Immune responses can also be produced by vaccines, which confer an artificially acquired immunity to the specific viral infection. Some viruses, including those that cause AIDS, HPV infection, and viral hepatitis, evade these immune responses and result in chronic infections. Several antiviral drugs have been developed
WHAT IS A VIRAL INFECTION?
A viral infection is a proliferation of a harmful virus inside the body. Viruses cannot reproduce without the assistance of a host. Viruses infect a host by introducing their genetic material into the cells and hijacking the cell’s internal machinery to make more virus particles. With an active viral infection, a virus makes copies of itself and bursts the host cell (killing it) to set the newly-formed virus particles free. In other cases, virus particles “bud” of the host cell over a period of time before killing the host cell. Either way, new virus particles are then free to infect other cells. Symptoms of viral illness occur as a result of cell damage, tissue destruction, and the associated immune response.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Vaccines for Prevention and treatment.
While we do have limited numbers of effective antiviral drugs, such as those used to treat HIV and influenza, the primary method of controlling the viral disease is by vaccination, which is intended to prevent outbreaks by building immunity to a virus or virus family.
Vaccines and Anti-viral Drugs for Treatment
In some cases, vaccines can be used to treat an active viral infection. The concept behind this is that by giving the vaccine, immunity is boosted without adding more disease-causing viruses. In the case of rabies, a fatal neurological disease transmitted via the saliva of rabies virus-infected animals, the progression of the disease from the time of the animal bite to the time it enters the central nervous system maybe 2 weeks or longer. This is enough time to vaccinate an individual who suspects that they have been bitten by a rabid animal, and their boosted immune response is sufficient to prevent the virus from entering nervous tissue. Thus, the potentially fatal neurological consequences of the disease are averted, and the individual only has to recover from the infected bite, because vaccines are widely used in the United States, many once-common diseases—polio, measles, diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, tetanus, and certain forms of meningitis—are now rare or well controlled.
Antibiotics and Antivirals
Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. They either kill bacteria or stop them from reproducing, allowing the body’s natural defenses to eliminate the pathogens. Used properly, antibiotics can save lives. But growing antibiotic resistance is curbing the effectiveness of these drugs. Taking an antibiotic as directed, even after symptoms disappear, is key to curing the infection and preventing the development of resistant bacteria.
Antibiotics don’t work against viral infections such as colds or the flu. In those cases, antiviral drugs, which fight infection either by inhibiting a virus’s ability to reproduce or by strengthening the body’s immune response to the infection, are used. There are several different classes of drugs in the antiviral family, and each is used for specific kinds of viral infections. (Unlike antibacterial drugs, which may cover a wide spectrum of pathogens, antiviral medications are used to treat a narrower range of organisms.) Antiviral drugs are now available to treat a number of viruses, including influenza, HIV, herpes, and hepatitis B. Like bacteria, viruses mutate over time and develop resistance to antiviral drugs.
Antivirals have been developed to treat genital herpes (herpes simplex II) and influenza. For genital herpes, drugs such as acyclovir can reduce the number and duration of episodes of active viral disease, during which patients develop viral lesions in their skin cells. As the virus remains latent in the nervous tissue of the body for life, this drug is not curative but can make the symptoms of the disease more manageable. For influenza, drugs like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) (Figure 3) can reduce the duration of “flu” symptoms by 1 or 2 days, but the drug does not prevent symptoms entirely
Drug treatment, vaccines, and cure for COVID-19 is still a subject of research and debates.