Of course, we know that the coronavirus is dramatically impacting daily life and can be lethal. But what, exactly, is a virus? And how and why is this one different from others?
Viruses cause diseases that range from mild — such as the common cold — to more serious, including influenza, HIV/AIDS, measles and COVID-19, among others. Viruses are tiny bits of genetic material (DNA or RNA) surrounded by a coat of protein. Tiny viruses enter the larger cells of a living host, such as a plant, animal or human. Once inside the cell, the virus sheds its protein coat. Its goal? To copy itself inside the host cell and make more viruses to attack other cells.
Viruses live inside cells, which protects them and makes them hard to treat. (Imagine trying to destroy something that is growing inside a sealed, hard plastic shell — without harming the shell!) Some viruses — such as those that cause polio or smallpox — can be avoided through vaccinations. Because it is new, the coronavirus does not yet have a vaccine, and people have not developed immunity to it.
The most effective way to combat most viruses, including the coronavirus, is by avoiding them. Frequent, careful hand-washing and physical distance from others (who may carry and can transmit the virus without having symptoms of COVID-19) are the best ways to protect yourself and your family from the coronavirus. For more information on the best ways to prevent COVID-19, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html