First, what is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 is a disease caused by a virus (SARS-CoV-2), discovered in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. This disease is very contagious and very quickly became a global pandemic. COVID-19 is part of the coronavirus family, which also includes common viruses that cause everything from common chest and head colds to more severe (rare) disease like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Coronavirus is spread through droplets (in the air) that are projected out of your mouth or nose when you breathe, speak, cough or sneeze.
Corona means crown and is in reference to the appearance the virus has from the spikes of protein sticking out of them. The spikes are what actually attach to human cells and infect them, allowing replication inside of the human cell, and spreading to other cells. Some antibodies can protect against SARS-CoV-2 by going after these very spike proteins.
As genetic mutations occur, over time, the virus begins to form genetic lineages, somewhat like humans, and just like in a family tree not all prodigy are exactly the same, leading to variants. Like your children have different traits and attributes, so do the “offspring” of the virus.
These variants are still SARS-Co-V-2, (example: I was born a Blazek, like my father before me), however these variants may act differently. (Kids, what are you going to do?) And just like children, these variants may need to be addressed or handled differently than their parent virus.
COVID-19 more commonly leads to respiratory symptoms that may feel like a cold, flu, or pneumonia. However, COVID-19 can attack and affect more of your body than just your lungs or respiratory system. While most individuals with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms, others may become severely ill, and even die. Older adults or individuals with certain underlying medical conditions are at an increased risk of more severe illness related to COVID-19.
There are also those with lesser or even no symptoms that suffer with post-COVID conditions, or what is referred to as “long COVID.”
While hundreds of thousands of people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, alone, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, with vaccines (that teach our immune system to fight the virus causing COVID-19) and booster shots to “boost” the efficacy of the vaccines.
Betty Cohn is a retired registered nurse with 35 years of experience in the medical field in a variety of roles. She will write a semi-monthly column about medical-related topics and welcomes questions and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.