Simply Scientific: Viruses

The Coronavirus is a family of viruses that produce symptoms which can range from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

With the recent outbreak around the world originating in Wuhan, China, the World Health Organization (WHO) began working on ways to minimize its spread. But how exactly does this virus function?

Viruses are interesting in that they are both considered living and non-living things, according to different experts. Why? Because they are not made of cells, but they have the interesting ability to replicate.

Viruses are shaped like spiky tennis balls. The “body” is called a virion with proteins (spikes) on its surface that dictate how the virus will affect someone. Depending on the shape of the spikes, the viruses can connect to cells from different parts of the body. In the case of the Coronavirus, it attaches itself to lung cells––resulting in pneumonia-like symptoms.

When this happens, the virus binds itself to receptors on the cells and hijacks them to override their DNA reproduction process. The virus sends in its genetic information to be duplicated by the cell’s ribosomes––which are the DNA’s reproductive machines. The cell becomes a reproductive hub for the virus.

Once the new virus  is big enough, it begins exiting the cell’s membrane, usually killing its host in the process. Its next destination? Other cells to replicate again and again. Wonderful! You’re now a virus- making organism.

But your body is not dumb. Au contraire, when your cells start dying and degrading, your body immediately senses this and triggers an immune response. Ever heard of a fever, runny nose, cough, chills? Those are not actually triggered by the virus, but in fact your body’s response to its invader! Now you can blame your own body for having to drink gross tasting cough syrup.

Eventually you get over your symptoms and get rid of the virus. However, it is too soon to say what will happen with the Coronavirus as the WHO is still researching the outbreak. For more information on how to protect yourself against the Coronavirus, visit the WHO website.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

If you’re planning on getting busy this Valentine’s Day, stay protected

Spread the love, not the disease

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, some of us who are romantically involved are preparing to spend the day with that special someone. While indulging your partner is important, so is keeping in mind the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or disease (STD).

According to Women’s Health, the difference between STIs and STDs are whether symptoms are present, and ailments are only described as diseases when symptoms are present. “You can have an infection, such as chlamydia, without symptoms,” said Angela Jones, M.D., an ob-gyn at Healthy Woman Obstetrics and Gynecology in Monmouth, NJ. Since 2005, the Canadian government has recorded a rise in reported STD/STI cases, mainly cases concerning chlamydia, which is the most reported sexually transmitted disease in Canada. In 2009-2010, 68 per cent of sexually active 15 to 24 year-olds reported using a condom the last time they had intercourse, according to Statistics Canada.

The World Health Organization states that there are more than 30 viruses, bacterias and parasites that can be transmitted sexually. Of these, eight are the cause of most reported STD/STI cases. Four are currently curable: syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis. The other four—hepatitis B, herpes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and human papillomavirus (HPV)—are viral infections and are not curable.

“While most people think that STDs[/STIs] are only transmittable through sexual intercourse, like penetration, there are really, in fact, many ways of getting them,” said Charlotte Gagné, a sexology student at the Université du Québec à Montréal. “For example, [they can be transmitted through] skin to skin contact, blood and sharing sex toys. It can also be passed down from mother to child.”

One of the best ways to avoid contracting and spreading STDs/STIs is to use protection. Condoms are accessible, relatively affordable and they come in various styles that can make using protection fun. Trojan has ribbed condoms geared for female pleasure, their thinnest condom called the ‘bareskin’ and even benzocaine-lubed condoms for climax control, all meant to maximize pleasure. Just be sure to always check condoms for rips or tears, as well as expiry dates, before use.

STDs/STIs not only affect you physically, but mentally and socially as well. “Our society judges and rejects people with STDs[/STIs],” said Gagné. “They are often seen as prostitutes or floozies. People are afraid to touch them, they act as if they have the plague.”

Kelyane Dizazzo, a student at Collège Ahuntsic, has contracted chlamydia in the past. “It felt like the end of the world,” said Dizazzo. “I know it could’ve been something much worse, but when I got the news, I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, the importance of getting regularly tested for STDs/STIs while sexually active is pertinent. Concordia Health Services recommends getting tested every two months, or between different sexual partners.

“I lost some friends,” added Dizazzo. “Their girlfriends didn’t want them near me, let alone talking to me.” Dizazzo went on to explain that if she had known how badly this disease would affect her, she would have been much more careful.

“Being informed is key,” said Gagné. “Knowing about the different types of STDs[/STIs] and how they can be transmitted not only helps you know how to protect yourself, but it lets you know what to expect if you are not careful.”
Being honest with yourself and your partner can help stop the spread of these sexually transmitted diseases. Having an STD/STI does not only affect you, it also affects your future sexual partners, and previous ones that could be carriers or infected as well.

“There a lot of resources available to help prevent STDs[/STIs], but you have to look for them,” said Gagné. “If you think you have an STD[/STI] or just want to make sure that everything is okay, go to an STD[/STI] testing clinic. It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Valentine’s Day is about showing your loved ones how much you care. While Hallmark holidays will push us to buy material items as expressions of our love, what better gift is there than the gift of protection and peace of mind?

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

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