In the midst of the global crisis surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is worth considering that this “problem” may not actually go away anytime soon. People talk about how things will return to “normal” when the pandemic is “over”. But what if it does not go away?
The COVID-19 is caused by the flu-like novel coronavirus. It is an RNA-based pathogen that is not alive in any real sense of our concepts of what is living. It is a piece of biological code that relies on a living host to persist — one, ideally, that is able survive its ravages long enough to pass copies of itself to the next host. Indeed, in some cases, the novel coronavirus manages to infect hosts without causing any visible symptoms allowing said hosts — carriers — to go about normal social activities making contact with other future hosts.
Modern chatter within less-educated circles regard them as predators. However, unlike real predators, viruses don’t eat their victims as their sources of energy. Instead, they take them over;
[…] when a virus enters a cell (called a host after infection), it is far from inactive. It sheds its coat, bares its genes and induces the cell’s own replication machinery to reproduce the intruder’s DNA or RNA and manufacture more viral protein based on the instructions in the viral nucleic acid. The newly created viral bits assemble and, voilà, more virus arises, which also may infect other cells.
It is, almost literally, the undead.
First seen as poisons, then as life-forms, then biological chemicals, viruses today are thought of as being in a gray area between living and nonliving: they cannot replicate on their own but can do so in truly living cells and can also affect the behavior of their hosts profoundly.
Just as stories of vampires and zombies persist even in these modern times where we are supposedly seeing the decline of religious and superstitious hocus pocus, viruses will persist. Indeed the common cold and flu are the results of such viruses — mutating with every generation far more rapidly than efforts to develop vaccines could keep up with. Unlike colds and the flu, COVID-19 kills a far larger proportion of its victims — which is why developing a vaccine is important. That, in turn raises, the question of whether vaccines can keep up with its rate of mutation (which by all accounts, is also an unknown at this point).
For now, it is best that we comply with measures being put in place to reduce its ability to spread. Prayer will not help beyond being therapeutic to those who seek religious ritual to manage their mental health. Level heads and sensibility need to prevail and not old and bad habits that may have contributed to its rise and spread. More importantly, it is really all nothing personal. Viruses are just participants of our competitive Darwinian landscape where species like us — and genetic strains, like the novel coronavirus — live and die. It’s just a question of who or what will persist. To compete another day.
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