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Where science and faith collide… the war on COVID-19

Hey there. This all seems surreal right? Will you sit down with me and allow me to share my peace with you for a moment?

You see, I have a somewhat unique perspective on this whole thing.

Can we be real for a sec? I know you may be scared. I know you might not understand what is going on in the world. I know you are getting hammered with changing regulations, restrictions, and fear-mongering sources of information at a non-stop rate right now.

Take a second. Breathe. It’s ok to admit it. Now, let’s get through this together.

I am a real person. Like you.

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter, and a friend.

I am also a certified high school biology teacher who has “translated” science and medical mumbo jumbo to students for a living. I have fancy degrees and credentials… blah blah blah. I am also from a medical family so I understand some of that side of things too.

I am not some nut-job trying to get you to be afraid or sell something or defy our government.

Well, in all honesty, I am crazy for Jesus… but that’s a whole other side of things we will get to in a sec.

Will you allow me to translate the science for you for a few minutes?

First, the U.S. government does not want to take away your right to go in Kroger whenever you want to. They don’t want to kill the economy like that. There is a reason behind what they are doing, and it is for our benefit, not our harm as a society.

You see viruses are interesting things. They fall in this category of not really living, but not truly “alive” either. I used to call them the “zombies” of biology to my high school students. (No, this isn’t a “Walking Dead” scenario. Calm down.)

Basically, it boils down to viruses not being cells. They are a combination of genetic material (DNA or RNA) with protein “wrapping paper” that gives the virus a specific shape.

Viruses are very simple. They have one natural purpose… seek and destroy. Since they are not cells, that is how they reproduce. They must have a host. They cannot reproduce on their own.

A virus will enter a cell and basically hijack the cell’s processes, forcing the cell to copy the viral genetic material over and over. As it does, the cell will eventually fill up with so much of the virus that it dies and releases those viruses to go find more cells to make more copies.

This is why you get sick when you contract a virus. Cells are no longer doing what they were designed to do and are now turned into virus copy machines with the copy button permanently taped down.

But guess what! There’s hope!!!

It’s called your immune system. Your immune system makes these little things called antibodies. Antibodies are extremely important. Picture Star Wars Rebel ships blowing enemy TIE fighters to bits in space… Got it? Good. That’s basically what antibodies do to viruses.

But each antibody is very specific to each virus, like a lock and a key. Antibodies recognize the viruses based on their shape. If the virus changes shape, it’s like suddenly the virus has a cloaking device and can go undetected through the body. This ability to change shape is called mutation.

Mutations happen when there is an error in the copying process. While your cells are stuck copying the genetic material of the virus, sometimes they can make a mistake. It happens. When it does, the virus produced will no longer be shaped the same.

Remember those little heroes called antibodies? Yeah, if the virus looks different, your immune system has to figure out how to make new antibodies to fight off the invaders.

This takes time. As your body is trying to make new antibodies, there are cells that are dying. That is what produces your set of symptoms. Viruses tend to target specific types of cells in your body based upon one thing… you guessed it! How the virus is shaped! Now, if the shape is similar to something your body has seen previously, it takes a lot less time and effort for your body to make the right antibodies. (This is the science behind vaccines. Whether you are for or against the way vaccines are administered, the basic science is the same.)

Now, there are two types of genetic material that a virus can have, either DNA or RNA. The virus will have one or the other, not both like a cell does. If a virus has DNA, it actually won’t change shape as quickly. DNA viruses have like a built in “spell-check” because DNA has two strands of information instead of one.

However, RNA only has one strand of genetic material. This means it is easier and faster for the cell to make more virus. It also means there is no built-in “spell-check” against mutations.

Mutations can happen very quickly with RNA viruses. Influenza is a whole group of RNA viruses that have mutated over and over again. This is why you can get sick with “the flu” over and over again. Your body is having to create new antibodies to keep up with the new mutated version of the virus.

Are you with me to this point? Did you glaze over at the science babble? (Go back and read it again if you did.)

Herein lies the problem with the current Coronavirus outbreak.

COVID-19 is what is called a “novel” virus. All that means is that this virus is brand spanking new. The human race has not encountered this virus yet so we do not have antibodies pre-programmed into our immune systems.

Novel viruses typically start out in another species. We’re talking like a pig, or a bat, or a monkey. The type of animal doesn’t really matter except that the species the virus comes from WILL have natural antibodies for it.

(Now, don’t stop petting Rover because of what I’m telling you. You’re not going to suddenly get some new virus from your dog. Chill out.)

Conditions have to be right for a novel virus to emerge. Yes, viruses can mutate, especially RNA viruses (remember all the science babble?), but typically, the species-to-species jump is a hard one to make. Even if the virus does make that jump out of another animal into a human, it has to also make another big mutational jump to be able to go from human-to-human.

COVID-19 made those jumps. So did SARS. So did H1N1 (swine flu). So did H5N8 (bird flu).

Those are all RNA viruses. They are all novel. That means until we are exposed to it, we don’t have antibodies for it. It also means that once they make the species-to-species jump and the human-to-human jump, the probability of mutation inside human hosts is high. This means that symptoms and data about the virus can sometimes change at a head-spinning rate.

This means it takes time to figure out what is going on.

This is why the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) was created. This is what the WHO (World Health Organization) is there for… to figure out what is going on and help the human race cope with as little loss of life as possible.

COVID-19 currently does not have symptoms that are life-threatening to most people. In most people, it currently presents as a mild flu. However, it has also been shown to attack the lungs and put some people in the hospital because they can’t breathe. *(keep reading for updates below)

So, why all the restrictions?

Well, it has to do with the incubation period. This is the time between the virus entering your body and when you start to feel sick. COVID-19 currently has an incubation period of around 14 days. Most strains (mutated versions) of the flu only have an incubation period of 3-7 days.

This means you can be walking around Wal-Mart for twice as long without ever knowing you are sick and infecting other people.

These could be people that have compromised immune systems because of a genetic condition, or recent surgery, or another infection. These could be elderly people whose immune cells just aren’t working like they used to and it takes more time to find the right antibodies. These are the people who COVID-19 is impacting the worst right now.

So, back to the restrictions…

It is about buying time.

You will probably come into contact with COVID-19 at some point and may get mildly sick. Your neighbor may come into contact with COVID-19 and get deathly ill. They might have to go to the hospital for treatment.

If everyone gets sick at the same time, our amazing medical heroes will not have enough equipment available to treat everyone who needs help.

THIS IS THE REAL ISSUE.

It is simple supply and demand.

So what can you do?

Start by praying. Start by being kind to your neighbor. Start by following the guidelines our government officials and medical personnel are recommending.

*UPDATE AS OF 3/21: I received reliable confirmation that this has mutated again and is no longer only putting the elderly and immunocompromised at risk. STAY HOME FOLKS!!!

Now, back to me being crazy about Jesus.

As much as I am a science nerd who loves to explain medical mumbo-jumbo, I am more of a Jesus freak.

I am proudly a Bible believing, Holy Spirit filled, on-fire for the Lord Christian.

Jesus is the real reason for my peace.

Without Jesus, life is chaotic.

Without Jesus, I would be in panic-mode because of knowledge that I have acquired through many years of study.

Without Jesus, I would be scrambling through grocery store aisles trying to make sure I have enough for myself and my loved ones without concern for my neighbor.

Without Jesus, I might forget to stop to be kind and smile at someone who is scared.

Without Jesus, I would be angry at the government for keeping me contained.

Without Jesus, I would be worried about how my bills were going to get paid or whether I would still have a job.

Without Jesus, I would be scared because I don’t know whether I am going to lose loved ones because of this virus.

Without Jesus, I would be in a panic because my mom and step-dad are both nurses over the age of 60 and are walking into the lion’s den with this thing daily.

These are all legitimate concerns. It’s ok to admit you have them. I have faced them too.

But I know Jesus. I have peace because I know Him.

“I am leaving you with a gift-peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 NLT

Peace is a Person. His name is Jesus.

If you don’t have peace, reach out. Let me introduce Him to you.

Categories: Science & Faith

Tagged as:

aprilhwest

35 replies

  1. Enjoyed your post. Could you share your source on this update:

    “ UPDATE AS OF 3/21: I received reliable confirmation that this has mutated again and is no longer only putting the elderly and immunocompromised at SEVERE risk.”

    and speak more to this?

    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m working on another post.

      My step-dad is an ICU nurse. My mom is an RN on a cardio-pulmonary (heart & lung) unit.

      I also have a former student in her 20’s with no underlying health conditions who is currently fighting for her life.

      Let me know any other questions you may have and I’ll see what I can find out and put into clear language.

      Like

  2. Amazing job! I too come from a health background, but now retired. I struggle with my clinical knowledge of proper isolation techniques and faith in Jesus. He gives us wisdom to use our knowledge not out of fear, but out of wisdom. Yet many choose to ignore the quarantine rules even churches….to which I ask, “is this truly trusting the Lord or testing Almighty God”? A question only they can answer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for the easily understood science portion. I am a healthy 76 year old. I am obeying the stay home rules except when had to stock up on necessities. I walk in wisdom not fear as I too am a Jesus person. God has loaded His Word with so much love, comfort, healing, peace. Love reading Ps 91 daily. Jesus paid the price. We have power in his name. God bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Larry! I actually realized for sure there had to be a God the first time I looked at a cell under a microscope. Faith and science do not have to be at odds with one another. I may do another post about this soon. Thanks for reading. Be blessed!

      Like

  4. Thank you! This has been shared by a few friends less science-y than myself (pre-med until I realized Chemistry would always be just out of reach.) it’s easily understood, factual, and the belief side of the article is just what it needs to be. : have faith, but don’t go out and ignore the science.

    Like

  5. If someone has the virus without the symptoms how does it get from one human to another without touching each other or objects previously touched by the infected person?

    Like

  6. Thank you for your information but most of all, thank you for sharing your belief in our Almighty God who holds His children in the palm of HIS hand. God Bless you and BE WELL!

    Like

  7. Thanks for this explanation, I needed this! How can I be sure to get any future posts? In this day and age we all need this !

    Like

  8. Thank you, sister! This is a terrific explanation of viruses and I agree, without that Peace from the Prince of Peace, I’d definitely be in a panic! Everybody, smile and wave at everyone you see as a sign of love, as Love covers a multitude of sins. Lift someone’s sprits today and every day!

    Like

  9. RN for me means Retired Nurse… thank you for the great details here. And bless you through this crisis, may your family stay safe and healthy.

    Like

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