The Endless Race between Human And Virus
The Korean government announced an upgrading of the infectious disease level from “Orange” to “Red”, the highest level, November 3rd. As the weather is getting colder, the government is worried about Swine Flu (H1N1 flu) spreading rapidly. Some schools are closed for some while to prevent a wider outbreak of Swine Flu. In addition, the sale of sanitation supplies has increased steadily after the Swine Flu outbreak. The H1N1 virus is of the same strain of the Spanish Influenza which broke out from 1918 to 1919, killing around fifty to one hundred million people. The Influenza spread mainly through people coming in contact with Influenza hosts. Most viruses’ toxicity are not deadly, because viruses can’t spread through contact with the dead.
Why are some viruses so dangerous like the “Spanish Flu” or “Bird flu”? Some viruses are not disease-causing in one species, but when transferred to another species it acquires deadly toxicity. For example, if a mosquito is attacked by Japanese Encephalitis, the mosquito is not affected seriously. The Mosquito then becomes a main carrier of viruses allowing it to adapt and live. The mosquito then transfers the virus to humans, whereby the virus once again mutates becoming a deadly disease.
As humans raise livestock, viruses are given an opportunity to transfer back and forth between animals and humans. To improve breeding outturns, huddles of cattle are bred in closely undesirable packed fenced conditions. Such conditions allow for viruses to spread quickly and easily. To prevent virus attacks, many farmers give anti-viral drugs to their livestock. Although well intentioned, it accelerates tolerance against the drug.
The Swine Flu which has been spreading since 2008 is mixed with six genomes originally from swine flu, bird flu and human flu. Fortunately the swine flu has a fatality rate being recorded at 0.05%. Even though the elderly and children are in danger because of their weak immune systems many people worry about swine flu because it is highly contiguous. Swine flu spreads through coughing and sneezing easily because it is a respiratory based virus causing cluster infections.
The Swine flu’s mutation or mix is another reason of its danger. The H1N1 virus is an RNA virus. RNA is a kind of gene. RNA plays an important role in protein structures and life. DNA also plays important role in life and it has tow strain which is complementary to each strain. Unlike DNA, RNA has just one strain of information. It mutates more easily because it doesn’t have a complementary strain. Viruses can’t spread in the human cell by Tamiflu. But if Swine Flu becomes tolerant from its mutation, it will change preventing Tamiflu from being effective. The mixing of virus genes is also big problem. If Swine Flu mixes with another toxic virus, its death rate will increase incredibly.
The virus and humans have been running in a race since the beginning of time. As anti-virus drugs are invented, humans believe that they are combating viruses. However, viruses mutate allowing them to become bigger and stronger. Probably this race will not end unless viruses or humans become totally extinct. With increases in world population, globalization, accelerated livestock farming, one can only expect that the mutation of viruses will quickly follow. The important thing we can do to fight off H1N1 is to maintain healthy living conditions, always trying to strengthen our immune system. We must also be sure to vaccinate those who have weak immune systems.
By Lee Sae-rom, Reporter