Covid-19 for Dummies

L.A. Fosner

I worked in biotech for over a decade. Like most industries the jargon is heavy duty. Unlike many industries, the jargon is necessary. It’s the language of science—it consists of words the rest of us don’t know because scientists discuss things the rest of us never discuss—or even need to understand—until now.

Here’s what I’ve learned, in the jargon-free language of the non-scientist.

  • Virus

A virus is a tiny living thing so small it may not even be visible using a microscope. This is how they can be airborne—think of a bunch of weightless teeny tiny particles that can fly up your nose or be breathed into your mouth and lungs without you feeling a thing.

A virus survives by moving into another living being and making copies of itself. Those copies take up space inside the body of the person, animal, or plant the virus has moved into.

Fun fact: You know when you have a cut on your arm that’s red and swollen and a little sore? That’s from a bacterial infection, most likely. Some viruses even live inside bacteria.

  • Covid-19

Covid-19 is a virus that does all kinds of funky things to people who get it. You can get it from breathing air that someone who has Covid has breathed out. This is true even if the person who is breathing Covid on you doesn’t know they have it.

Covid-19 is new, so we know it does a lot of different things to different people, but we don’t really understand it very well. Mostly, but not only, it hurts people’s lungs and hearts…which can kill them.

People who are older and already sick get hurt most—but some young people who aren’t sick and don’t have any of the “underlying conditions” scientists talk about have still become very sick from Covid-19.

There is no way to know if you or someone you love will die from Covid-19.

  • Covid treatments

Some people say you just need to get treatment for Covid and don’t need the vaccine. But so far no one who has had Covid has said that. Only people who haven’t had it and haven’t lost someone to Covid say that. That should tell you that they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

If treatments worked, why have over 600,000 Americans died of Covid-19 already?

  • Delta Variant

There is a new stronger version of Covid-19 called the Delta variant. It started as Covid-19, but it changed to be even more easily spread and more likely to kill people. How did this happen?

Well, a virus can change (mutate) when people spread it because it has more chances to adapt to different people.

Viruses adapt very fast; way faster than people do. That’s why the Delta variant spreads so much more easily than the old Covid-19. Virus can get in your nose and mouth even if you have been vaccinated. If you have been vaccinated, the vaccine will protect you, so you don’t die. The problem is that it won’t protect people who are not yet vaccinated.

That is why you should protect yourself and the ones you love, so the chances of getting Covid are as small as possible. There are only two ways to do that: wear a mask and get vaccinated. Why do you need to do both? Because they protect in different ways.

  • Masks

Masks reduce the spread of Covid-19 by reducing the amount of the virus that leaves the mask wearer’s face. This helps to prevent the spread of Covid to someone else.

You might think that if you’ve been vaccinated you can’t spread it—but that’s not true. If you have been vaccinated and the virus doesn’t make you sick, but you get some in your nose and mouth, you can still spread it. If you spread it to someone who isn’t vaccinated, it could kill them.

If you don’t want to kill people, wear a mask!

  • Vaccines

Vaccines are usually shots, like the shots you get to keep you from getting measles. Vaccines used to take a really long time to invent, but the scientists who make them now have been able to use ideas they came up with years ago to make things much faster.

Almost nobody who has been vaccinated dies of Covid—even the stronger, Delta variant.

The vaccine is also much, much safer than risking Covid. Only three Americans have died as a result of receiving the Covid vaccine, and over 187 million have been fully vaccinated.

  • Breakthrough Infections

If you’re concerned about “breakthrough infections,” you probably know that’s when someone who is vaccinated tests positive for Covid. Some people say that’s proof the vaccine doesn’t work. No, it’s not!

Vaccines can’t prevent particles from entering your nose and mouth when you breathe. Only a mask can do that. What a vaccine can do is stop the virus from making copies of itself, which prevents you from getting so sick that you end up in the hospital, or dead.

No vaccine of any kind has ever prevented people from being exposed to disease—vaccines just give you a weapon (what scientists call “antibodies”) to prevent the virus from copying itself so many times that it fills up your lungs and kills you because there’s no room for air in there.

Summary:

It’s over a thousand times safer to get the vaccine than to risk dying of Covid. The only time you don’t need to wear a mask is when you are alone or with others who have all been vaccinated.

If you want to live and protect the ones you love, get vaccinated, and wear a mask any time you are around other people unless you know for sure that they have been vaccinated.

If you don’t get vaccinated you could get Covid and die. If you are vaccinated but you don’t wear a mask when you are around other people you could help the virus spread. If it keeps spreading, it will keep adapting. If it keeps adapting, at some point there will be nothing we do can stop it—and we could all die.

The way to prevent that is to wear masks and get vaccinated. This way we can kill Covid-19 instead of Covid-19 killing us.

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