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Why is the Coronavirus s
o Contagious ?
April 20, 2020
The Coronavirus has shown very contagious, currently passing 2.4 million cases worldwide since it was discovered late December 2019 in Wuhan, China where the first dozen cases emanated.
By January 30th, the WHO declared a global emergency, Trump restricted travel from China, and the first death outside of China was reported on February 2nd. On February 5th the Diamond Princess cruise ship reported 218 cases. In the third week of February, Italy saw a major surge in new cases, Trump asked Congress for a $1.25 billion response package, and the Diamond Princess cruise ship now reported 621 persons infected. A week later, the first U.S. death was reported and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) approved a program of widespread coronavirus testing.
From there, a historical pandemic continued to ravage the world, totaling a million cases on April 2nd and then a 2nd million on April 15th.
Why is the Coronavirus so contagious ? If COVID-19 isn’t known to be more powerful than other viruses, what makes it different ?
It is because it is new, or “novel”. We have no pre-existing defenses against the Coronavirus, so the human body does not recognize it as an intruder. According to Dr. Pastula of UCHealth in Colorado:
Imagine an old, walled medieval town. If this virus were a disguised attacker arriving at the town’s protective walls, but open gates, the guards would not immediately know to be suspicious. With this coronavirus, it’s as if the guardians of our cells have kept the gates open and let the coronavirus in without immediately recognizing its danger.
The virus gets in and hijacks the cells. It overrides the cell’s normal programming and turns it into a machine to make more of the virus. “The virus is simply a blueprint or a code to turn cells into machines to make more virus”. Perhaps illustrations from the New York Times may help visualize how the Coronavirus attacks cells.
Although this explains the sadly defenseless mechanism taking place when coronavirus enters the body, how are people catching the virus in the first place ?
It appears organizations such as the WHO or CDC iterate a general rule for how the virus is being transmitted to humans:
The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
This accounts for a six-foot distancing rule imposed on the general public, but does not really explain the exponential surge in cases like we have observed. Although major health organizations continually instruct to wash hands frequently, they don’t entirely explain why. For example, very little is mentioned about “fomite transmission”.
A fomite is any inanimate object, such as a door knob, which when contaminated or exposed to infectious disease can transfer the disease to a new host. Common fomites are cups, spoons, pencils, .., bath faucet handles, toilet flush levers, door knobs, light switches,.., handrails, elevator buttons, television and stereo controls, pens, touch screens,.., cell phones, keyboards, computer mice, coffeepot handles,.., and countertops. 1 More could be added to this list and become quite lengthy. Most likely all these many fomites were not mentioned to prevent paranoia. Yet, what is fair information for the public ?
Another repeated insinuation is that the Coronavirus is not transmitted through the air. Infection by airborne particles is sometimes called aerosol transmission. Health groups contend it is only thru droplets, such as when somebody sneezes your way at a distance under six feet. But what starts as droplets from somebody’s cough soon evaporates into the air as it is falling to the ground. From the time a droplet was ejected from a cough, it is half the size when it hits the floor - the other half evaporated into air - and is now airborne. Further, the virus can “hitch-a-ride” onto a fine dust particle and the 3-hour rule for airborne viruses is no longer true. It can take a ride for three days. But dust particles commonly contain bacteria, and if the virus is at all compatible to the bacteria, it could sustain itself and carry on indefinitely.
A coronavirus particle "hitches-a-ride" onto a common dust particle while
traveling through the air.
There is another reasonably simple explanation. Recall when you walk out into the cold air, and when you exhale, you “see your breath”. Because of the relative temperature difference, you see your exhalation in the form of steam or vapor. It does this all year round when you exhale, you just don’t see it unless it is cold. Now think of a person infected by the Coronavirus, and when he or she exhales outdoors they are releasing vapor from their infected lungs into the air. Multiply this by the number of persons with COVID-19 and see what you come up with. You should realize there is an aersol of Coronavirus swirling in all directions in the outdoors, just not so concentrated. It is probably safe to assume that you will be okay on your trip to the store - the time spent outside is so brief. But what about spending several hours in the outdoors ? Will longer times outside make you more vulnerable to contracting the virus ?
Breath exhalations into the cold air, including animals, will show visible as vapor. Exhalations occur year round expelling the air from our lungs, even when infected.
So now there is airborne transmission with the Coronavirus. This more completely explains the contagion phenomena and accounts for why the Coronavirus became a world pandemic, although nobody said much about how this actually occurred. This most likely has to do with “pandemic politics”. Coronavirus stirring in the air is possibly too scary to exclaim to the whole world at once. It is better to impart it a little bit at a time. In fact, there are now several reports verifying the very same issues as stated in this article. And the WHO, in collaboration with the 3M Company, has admitted airborne transmission of COVID-19 (see 3M Technical Bulletin 1791123O):
The WHO has confirmed that aerosol transmission is a possible transmission pathway of SARS-CoV-2. WHO has published guidance intended for healthcare workers (HCWs), healthcare managers, and teams working in infection prevention and control. WHO recommends that eye protection (goggles or a face shield) be used during patient contact along with gloves, a medical mask, and a fluid-resistant gown. Airborne precautions, including an N95, FFP2, or equivalent respirator, should be used during aerosol-generating procedures.
But this is not meant to scare the public since it is only a matter of precaution. The small amount of coronavirus in the air over a short time is what most people could be immune to, since the viral load is so low. The viral load, or amount of human exposure to virus particles or virions, should be relative to the immune system. What is known so far is that the viral load does not need to be necessarily high to infect a human, but the degree of sickness can sometimes depend on the viral load (although not always). In other words, a high viral load can cause a greater sickness, but with some inconsistencies. Likewise, if the viral load is so little it may become absorbed by the average immune system. What exactly these viral loads are remain to be unanswered.
When the sun radiates through the environment, eventually peaking to its strongest intensity, it will begin to extinguish the virus from the environment (including the air). Just as the Coronavirus was sparked by a natural occurrence, it can be countered by a natural occurrence such as the sun, and by man’s deliberate intervention.
We have gone from mandates of “nobody should wear a respirator mask” to “everybody should wear a respirator mask” in just several weeks. Anyone concerned about their health, or believes they are in a sensitive situation with their immune system, should keep an air purifier running inside their house along with wearing a respirator mask when they leave, especially if they plan to endure several hours of the outdoors.
1. Examples of fomites as listed by Wikipedia.