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Covid-19 Chronicles - Entry 1

Hello my lovely readers, I hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy amongst the Covid-19 pandemic.


This is a global event that is making history and affecting us all. Personally, it has made me reflect on a lot and it has been a reminder of how privileged our day to days lives are and how easily our norm can be changed. This is what Hurricane Irma felt like for me...having my island St. Maarten as I knew it one day to everything pretty much destroyed the next day. It is the events that are so out of our control that make you reflect on how valuable each day is.


In this week's blog, I wanted to check in with everyone and chat about how I've been, some information about the virus, and why we need to stay home.


Before I get into the blog more, I want to direct everyone to CDC and WHO website for up-to-date reliable information regarding the virus. I will be citing any and all additional sources that I use.

 

Staying Home and Limiting the Spread

Currently, I off my collage campus and back home for the foreseeable future. My university has moved online for the remainder of the semester and my apartment is closed. Many universities across the country have also moved online, if you would like some tips for this transition check out my last blog. I've actually been out of school for the past two weeks so I've had to keep myself busy in the house. Some of my quarantine activities include lots of baking, reading, working on stylebykye content, and studying because no class doesn't mean you can't keep learning!


I found it really important personally to give myself some kind of schedule, I came up with various activities such as working out, coloring, reading, and other self-care activities as well as a list of academics I should do. This is what works for me to keep my sane. I think I will do a separate mini-post on some of these indoor activities, if you'd like to see this leave a comment!


I want to emphasize how important it is that we each do our part right now to limit contact with other people in effort to "flatten the curve." In a time like this, we should be listening to the public health experts who have literally given their whole lives to learning how to handle epidemics and pandemics. Think of this as your way to help save lives!


What if you do have to go out? How can we prevent spread of the virus and being infected?

Here a few recommendations straight from CDC's page How to Protect Yourself

  • Wash Your Hands - why? Viruses have lipid membranes and soap is an amphipathic molecule, this means that is is both hydrophobic and hydrophilic. This property allows soap molecules to wedge into the virus membrane and break it apart, ultimately killing the virus.

  • Maintain social distance - from what we know, the most common way for you to get infected is through respiratory droplets from an infected individual, therefore if you are in public or let's say a family member comes to visit or any other situation where you are around people stay at least 6 feet apart.

  • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces daily - there has been evidence that the virus can survive on surfaces, especially hard surfaces, so be sure to keep disinfecting each day

  • Gloves and masks? - if you are sick, per the CDC, a mask is NOT necessary. It is important to understand the role that PPE plays, if you are wearing a mask this helps to stop you from spreading droplets to others when you cough or sneeze. But let's say your not sick, you choose to wear a mask, you forget to wash your hands and you touch you face to adjust or remove the mask.....you could have increased your chance of contracting the virus. Similar to gloves, if you wear gloves outside, come back in and touch various objects then you have defeated the purpose of wearing them. For example, I have been volunteering in hospitals since high school and during my volunteer shifts I went through countless gloves...we put them on as we enter the patients room and take them off right as we leave. Gloves can still carry germs so please be careful.


 

What is COVID-19?

As a biology and pre-medical student, I took interest into learning more about the virus, the testing process, vaccine development, public health response, etc. I've been self-learning some immunology because our immune systems are absolutely fascinating and I think unless your in a health field, especially infectious diseases, immunology, virology, etc, the average person doesn't think about the many germs, bacteria, and viruses our immune system encounters and also the threat of viruses.

Here is what I understand about the virus from reliable scientific sources:


COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a novel strain of coronavirus. Scientists have sequenced the whole genome of the virus and right now the theory is that this virus "jumped" from bats to humans (A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin) It is possible that there was an intermediate host involved, and studies are still looking into this. (The Novel Coronavirus Outbreak)

Science has truly been moving fast to find out as much as possible about the virus and developing diagnosing assays as well as working on a vaccine.


What I have always found so fascinating about viruses is that they are non-living yet they seem so "smart." It is truly an interesting manifestation of evolution and natural selection at work such as when random mutations can cause a virus to infect a new species as a host or the proteins they express which are able to bind to human receptors. When a virus enters a host, its goal is to infect a cell. Scientist have identified the functional cellular receptor of the virus to be ACE2. (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 is a functional receptor for the SARS coronavirus, ) This is the receptor that the virus uses to enter the cells.


This information and more insight into how the virus works helps scientist to discover therapies. Some therapies that are in the works include dosing of recombinant human ACE2 to neutralize the virus. There is also investigation into drugs used to treat HIV known as protease inhibitors. I learned about the HIV virus, it's life cycle and treatment options last semester. Protease is an enzyme that breaks down proteins, viruses code for proteases in order to cleave their proteins when undergoing replication (forming new viruses), the combination of these drugs showed some promise for SARS-CoV-1 in 2003-2004 and is being tried again. There are also clinical trials with a nucleotide analog called Rembesivir, this inhibits the viral polymerase. The mechanism is not fully know but it is believed to inhibit replication by causing genome mutations or by blocking polymerase function. (SARS-CoV-2 vaccines: status report)


There are also vaccine trails underway, I may discuss any publications I find about the vaccine development in another blog entry. For those who don't know, I am specializing in Cellular Biology and Genetics for my undergrad degree and this has been a very eye-opening way as to how what I have been learning in my various classes applies to ground-breaking important science. I am thankful to the scientist, researchers, experts, and professionals working hard right now to produce information, therapies, and solutions for this pandemic.


The truth is, these specialist and scientist around the world have been warning of that the next pandemic could happen at any time. I am currently finishing the novel Outbreak Culture, which examines the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. I saw parallels between issues we faced during that outbreak that issues faced now. I highly suggest the novel if you'd like to know more about Ebola, outbreaks, and epidemiology. I also suggest the documentary Pandemic on Netflix, it also covered Ebola, as well as influenza, anti-vaccine movement, and it really does a great job of showcasing how vulnerable we are to pandemics.


 

Our New Normal

None of us want to be going through this right now, our visions for 2020 have completely shifted. From trips planned, events, parties, graduation, so much has been cancelled, postponed, and changed. For college students, our semesters have shifted so much. But amongst everything that has happened, I encourage everyone to stay positive and focus on staying healthy and keeping the people around you healthy.


To my fellow students, let's give this semester the best we can. This may likely look different that what we could accomplish if we were on campus but what's important is that we do the best we can given our circumstances. If you go to UMD, there is a student group who have been working to make recommendations to the administration on behalf of student concerns. Their campaign SeeMeUMD has done an amazing job of advocating for us Terps, I hope you will check them out and support!


Tomorrow, my online classes start and I will keep you all updated on this new journey.


I've been trying to think of ways to keep as many parts of my old routine as possible. Starting tomorrow, I will be sticking to my class routine even thought all my courses are now asynchronous. I'm trying to stick to my workout routines and happy to share an updated workout routine for home. I'm also adjusting to being back at home, I got very used to living on my own in my apartment and doing things on my schedule, but now I have to make sure I'm also considering my families schedule. I also know I need to make sure not isolating myself socially and will be face timing my friends and hope to continue my study groups as virtual groups now.


What tips or strategies do you have? Leave a comment below!


 

I hope you all enjoyed the first entry of "COVID-19 Chronicles"


We're in an unprecedented time, but we'll get through this together!

Praying for everyone,


xoxo

Kye

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