Now is a good time to embrace our HUMANITY! By Liz Lugo

Let’s stop, for a moment, there's too much noise.  Let's talk about General Microbiology and Immunology since maybe, just maybe it’s the main issue why people still don't get it.  I'll use simple words.

What is a Virus? A microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium that can't grow or reproduce apart from a living cell.  A virus invades living cells and uses their chemical machinery to keep itself alive and to replicate itself.  What does this mean?  Well, it survives only for hours outside our body (on surface/objects) --- but if it gets into our body, it will go crazy, trying to infect our cells so it can live and eventually replicate.  *The virus infects a cell that we call “the host cell” and then that host cell is forced to produce thousands of identical copies of the original virus, then viruses spread, infecting other healthy cells.

DON'T WORRY!  You have many, many, many more cells that will kill the viruses. The beauty of our immune system.

Are they parasites?  Well, it's complicated.  Viruses actually are similar to obligate intracellular parasites as they lack the means for self-reproduction outside a host cell.  But, unlike parasites, viruses are generally not considered to be true living organisms.

Watch this! 

Flu Attack! How A Virus Invades Your Body | Krulwich Wonders | NPR

Did you watch it?  No.  DO IT.
Yes? Cool, huh?  Or at least, informative.

So, what is so unique about novel Coronavirus?  First, let's call it by its name SARS-CoV-2 (COVID–19 is the disease this virus causes).  And yes, there are other Coronaviruses: SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.

Well, SARS-CoV-2 is new – at least, for our knowledge.  We don't know much about it, but we know some stuff like it’s very contagious and many people are dying.  Doesn't scare you?  Because you're healthy, right?  Well, I am healthy, too, and not to panic, but I believe it’s important to understand this is dangerous.

“Why, Liz?  You'll be fine.”  Probably. Who knows?  But –

Before I continue, a recent study found that the SARS-CoV-2 can live “in aerosols up to 3 hours post aerosolization, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel.”  Source: Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericmack/2020/03/15/new-coronavirus-study-shows-how-long-hcov-19-can-live-on-different-surfaces  Link to the study: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.09.20033217v2

This is important to understand the virus and the importance of taking precautions and staying at home.

Ok, let’s proceed.


If you want to keep taking the chances because you’re healthy, without the knowledge that this is a new virus and no one knows how your body will react to it, consider in other countries healthy individuals are dying, and that in Hong Kong professionals have observed in recovered patients how the lungs have been affected.

Well, let me tell you something:

You're healthy.  Fine.  Go outside.  Live your life.  Do you live or have any contacts with someone who has a compromised immune system? Do you live or have any contacts with someone 65+?  Yes.  Well, you're being irresponsible! (This is my fancy and polite way of saying how I feel, as I am unable to use the actual words that I would like to.)

If the answer is no, ok.  Then, you're fine if you just get a mild cough and fever.  No complications.  And I really hope so because obviously I don't want anyone to get sick or have complications.  But what if the situation becomes complicated and you need to go to the hospital?  Well, there are more patients — with or without COVID–19.  There are physicians, nurses, healthcare providers helping to stop this disease, helping to save lives.  WE NEED THEM.  And yes, the answer still is: you’re being irresponsible!

Ask yourself: is it fair? If I couldn't stay at home for a period of time, I may put numerous humans in danger? You’ll not be the only person going outside. Another, another, another, another will get the virus and eventually go to the hospital. Do you get it?  Do you understand how this will complicate the situation in hospitals and put endanger the lives of those helping (physicians/nurses,support staff, etc.)?  Do you get how this will complicate the situation for those 65+ and those with compromised immune system? Do you get it?  Do you get that our healthcare system will be overloaded?  Let’s say if things get so complicated, like in Italy, physicians will have to decide to save your life instead of that person of 65+, for instance — meaning: someone’s parent, someone’s grandpa/grandma, someone’s friend, someone’s coworker, someone’s role model... You will live, you who are being selfish by going outside unnecessarily.

“Hey, calm down.  This is USA.  Everything will be fine.”  Do you really think that if people keep going to public gatherings the virus will not spread?  Let’s face it: the virus is here.  And not only in hospitals.  If we keep going outside, it will be a matter of time before more than half of our population becomes infected.  Oh, and let me add – Italians were told this was a simple cold.  That’s why they kept with their lives instead of going to quarantine.  WE, people in USA and other countries like Canada, already KNOW this is nothing like a cold or the flu.  Think.  I don’t want to see USA or any other country in the position that Italy, for instance, is right now. 

Here's an interesting article from The Washing Post that shows four different simulations, explaining how the best option to stop the spread is extensive distancing: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/world/corona-simulator/ (of course, regarding isolation – keep taking precautions every single day – like washing your hands, covering your mouth, etc.)


Still don’t get the importance of staying at home?  Ok, let me put another scenario.

You think it’s okay to act careless and go outside because you will not need the hospital if you get sick. So then, you go to a bar and you get infected (get the virus). You're asymptomatic, feeling great!  So you go outside again. Say hi to your friend, yes, high five! Then, you go touch that bean can at the supermarket, but end up leaving it there because you really don't want it, you don’t need it. Then Simon, who has Lupus, gets the bean can… Poor Simon, little does he know how his life is about to change. Then, you pay with credit card. But no worries, you have no contact with Linda, the cashier, who has gloves.  So, you slide the credit card through the slot in the machine. You confirm the transaction on the pad. Then, a sneeze – but calm down, it’s not a symptom, it’s just because of the scent of Febreze another employee just sprayed.  You just smile at Linda, who smiles back because that’s part of her job, being kind. You leave without knowing a tiny droplet already traveled and landed on Linda's face, and other tiny droplets on the pad and other objects like Linda’s gloves. After you, comes Maria, poor Maria who also pays with credit card. No worries, Maria is healthy. She only takes care of her grandpa who is 90-years-old, has diabetes, atrial fibrillation, needs oxygen. But hey, those people must disinfect everything outside their home, even the bag of vegetables that your friend - who you high-five! – left on the shelf and Maria bought.  Sadly, Maria didn’t find alcohol, Lysol or Clorox because Damian thought this is a Zombie apocalypse and bought everything before she could get to the store. This doesn’t end with Simon, Linda, Maria and Maria’s grandpa (and everyone in contact with them) and everyone in contact with the objects were the droplets landed.  Your friend plans to take an Uber tomorrow to celebrate his brother’s birthday at his favorite bar and grill.  Meanwhile, neither your friend nor you have symptoms so you both keep ‘Living la Vida Loca.’  The virus is taking the best vacation ever, getting to know every destination in the world before many of us – that’s not good for society, tho.

Let’s stop a moment to think about what you just read.  Read it again if you need to.

Now, read this article and watch the video: https://www.wcax.com/content/news/Vt-woman-with-compromised-immune-system-urges-community-to-take-precautions--568781371.html

People need to understand how easily this virus spreads and how contagious it is.  No, stop saying this is like Influenza.  There are sources that proof it’s more contagious and deadly. If you stop your routine to see what’s happening in the world, you’ll notice it but, if you don't believe me, search for Prof. Akiko Iwasaki -- she's a Professor of  Immunobiology and Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developed Biology at Yale University.


I would like to add, Influenza is also scary, but the difference is that there’s a vaccine.

Scary. 

Do we need to be afraid? Well, we’re living in difficult times.  The situation is serious.  We must understand the dangers and must cooperate.  There are many lives at risk, including those who are helping save lives, including those working at the supermarkets and pharmacies.

But, do we need to panic?  No.  Panic will not let us think well. SARS-CoV-2 is a microorganism we must know and understand how dangerous it could be for our society.  Let’s take China, Italy, Iran, Spain, South Korea… as examples. Yes, people will get infected, but let’s try to keep the number low so we can protect physicians, nurses, etc. and we can give a chance to live to those infected, especially those 65+ and those with compromised immune system.

Are all microorganisms bad? No. There are microorganisms that are essential in our body. Although some others are not good for us, well, they also live and can hurt us so we need to learn about them and learn how to protect ourselves – and this is what physicians, scientists, nurses, all healthcare providers are asking at this moment (and always, there are many microorganisms that can hurt us): learn about this virus and protect yourself and others. There are things scarier than a virus… selfishness, hate, incomprehension, cruelty.  And right now, we’re seeing many of that.  Every time you decide to go to a public gathering, you’re at risk of exposing yourself, infect others and cause someone's else death.  I honestly can’t understand how a human being is so cruel not to care about people’s health, but to care about a concert or a party, for instance.  I love and adore God, and, right now, nothing is more important than our health.  For those who are desperate to go to mass, God knows it's not the moment.

Now it’s a good time for you to decide what kind of human being you want to be from now on.

Think about others.  Have empathy, be kind, and stay at home.  Work from home!  No work?  There are plenty of good books.  Play a video-game.  Take an ASL course (yes, there are online courses)!  It is time that we include the Deaf community (and everyone) in everything we do.  There are also many other free online courses!  Pick your subject!  Also, YouTube have many cool videos.  Find tutorials.  Learn something new.  Nah?  Watch those TV shows and movies you haven't been able to see -- what if you discover productions that you didn't even know they exist?  What about foreign films?  Documentaries?  Hey, Universal put movies in theaters on VOD!  Too much TV?  Exercise!  Cook!  Clean!  Write!  Call your friend! Skype!  Watch those free online concerts and free online museums.  Sleep, it's also good for your immune system.  You NEED to go to the market or pharmacy?  Fine.  But take precautions, analyzing all scenarios – yes, even a scenario where YOU are infected (even if you think you’re not).

Many professionals from different specialities are advising us.  Listen to them, to their many years of studies.  Please, take this seriously.  If we all cooperate, we will be helping so much more than we think. And yes, then you all can do those memes about how YOU also wear a cape (be a hero!).  Listen to the Italians - there are many people sharing their experiences.  Please, take advice.  ALL LIVES MATTER!  And trust me, if you're so impatient to go outside --party, that concert, church, beach, have dinner, gym, theatre, dance classes, whatever ----- let me tell you, you don't want to take your chances. You have no idea how this virus could change your life.  Parties, church, beaches, restaurants… will not go anywhere. 

Do it for yourself. Do it for others. Right now, staying at home is the greatest proof of love you can give to yourself and others.  Please.  It’s not drama, hysteria, panic.  It’s a serious situation that if we face it properly, soon it will be over.  Please.  Before we all start putting faces to those numbers (deaths).

We can do this.  Together.  Stay well and safe!

If you were in contact with someone who has been tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) or believe you could be positive, please, contact your physician. 

I would like to take a moment to say THANK YOU to those physicians, nurses, all healthcare providers, scientists, workers at supermarkets and pharmacies, police, everyone out there helping our communities in this difficult times. Thank you for the huge sacrifice you all are making.💘



Liz Lugo is a screenwriter/filmmaker with a Bachelor Degree in Industrial Microbiology from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus.  She’s passionate about Clinical Microbiology, Immunology, Virology, Cancer, and Mycology.  She urges you to keep washing your hands, cover your mouth, don’t touch your face (mouth, eyes, nose), disinfect everything (including your phone), and stay at home!


Comments

  1. Such a great piece, Liz! Thank you for talking the time to write this out for us.

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