July 14, 2024

A virus is a very small organism – estimated to be about 100 times smaller than bacteria. They can only be seen or examined with the aid of an electron microscope. Viruses have been around since ancient times and their peculiar characteristic is that they need to be inside a cell of a living host – plant, animal, or human being – in order to reproduce.
Once inside its host, a virus attaches to a specific type of body cell and releases its so-called RNA or DNA. These will act as templates or basis for the virus to reproduce itself. What happens when a virus replicates or multiplies inside a cell? The cell either gets killed, or the virus can change the processes or metabolism inside a cell and disturb its normal functions. These changes can lead to the formation of abnormal body cells and this can lead to an increased risk for cancer formation. Example is the Epstein-Barr virus which increases the risk for lymphoma. Some viruses can also just insert some or all of their genetic information (RNA and DNA) into cells and stay silent for months or years then emerge again. Example is the chicken pox virus Varicella-Zoster virus which can remain dormant in the dorsal root ganglia of the nervous system but when reactivated would cause herpes zoster or shingles.
Viruses can choose whom to infect. African Swine Fever virus prefers pigs. Tobacco mosaic virus prefers tobacco plants. Some viruses infect animals and human beings as well.
Transmission of viruses among persons may be through inhalation of infected droplets, body fluids or through close personal contact.
The new virus identified as the cause of a pneumonia-like illness that was first-identified in December, 2019 in Wuhan, China is now called the 2019-nCoV virus. Researchers are studying where it originated. The virus is in the coronavirus family as the viruses that cause SARS and MERS. The latter viruses originated from bats. It is now being studied if it is possible that snake meat (Chinese cobra and Chinese krait) may be the source of the new coronavirus. There are reports that the persons initially affected worked in a market where processed meats and live animals like poultry, donkeys, sheep, pigs, camels, foxes, rats, hedgehogs and snakes and other reptiles were sold. There is proof now that infected persons can transmit the virus to other persons through infected droplets and body fluids.
In the U.S. and in other countries research is being done on a vaccine for the new virus. Clinical trials will be conducted for months on its safety before it will be made available for human use.

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