Viruses 101 with Sanford’s chief physician

HealthBeat

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Long before COVID-19, there were other viruses that spread and killed millions all over the world.

Small Pox, The Spanish Flu, and Polio killed and crippled millions. They’ve all been nearly wiped out because of vaccines. A way to let our bodies recognize, track down and kill the virus with our own immune systems.

But what is it about viruses, why do we keep seeing new ones, and why are they so hard to kill? For the answers, we came here to Sanford Health, kind of a virus 101.

“A virus is just a very small particle that has figured out a way to grow and reproduce inside the cells of another animal or creature,” said Dr. Jeremy Cauwels, Sanford Health’s Chief Physician.

He agreed to bring us up to speed on what a virus does.

“Its job if you will is to make more of itself, its goal is to spread itself as far as it possibly can and to continue to reproduce,” said Cauwels.

And as it reproduces it makes mistakes, what we call variants.

“Every once in a while because they’re making millions of copies of themselves one of those millions of copies gets a little better at being a virus than its parent was,” said Cauwels.

According to Cauwels when the first version of COVID-19 showed up, our immune systems were caught off guard.

“Nobody had seen this before 2019, and so no human body was ready and trained for this virus when it came through the first time, and so the first wave came through and it said you know what, I’m going to go on the older folks,” said Cauwels.

The virus held our loved ones in nursing homes captive for a year, then we came up with vaccines, and the virus changed again and looked for other victims.

“What is it doing right now? It’s infecting our school children it’s affecting our young people at a rate that’s more than double what we saw last year at this time, and that rate is what scares me the most because nobody wants to see kids in a hospital,” said Cauwels.

Cauwels says nobody likes masks, but right now, in his opinion, they are the best way to protect children under 12 who can’t get the vaccines yet. Because as he says, the only purpose of a virus is to spread and replicate, no matter the host.

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