It’s that time of year for witches and vampires, ghosts and zombies, pumpkins and candy! October is a great time to explore some of the scariest moments in health science history: PANDEMICS. Read on for Part 1 of this month-long series.
For as long as we know, history has been filled with moments of extreme sickness throughout the world. A moment of widespread sickness is known as a pandemic. It’s a term we have heard a lot about over the last few years. COVID-19 stands out as the most recent pandemic in history as it has changed the world over the last few years.
Up to today, there have been over 770 million positive cases of COVID-19 across the world. Let’s take a dive into this monster sickness.
HOW IT DEVELOPED
The virus that causes COVID-19 is incredibly infectious, meaning it spreads from person-to-person very fast. For most of us in the US, we think of COVID-19 starting in 2020. However, it began to take hold in December 2019 in China. Doctors that first saw the sick patients noticed that they had many symptoms of a virus known as SARS-CoV-1, but these patients didn’t get better after taking medicine for this virus. Eventually, scientists realized that this disease was not the same thing. In January 2020, scientists began to call this mystery sickness “2019-nCoV”, meaning that this was a “novel” or new disease. Shortly after, this mystery was given the formal name"SARS-CoV-2”.
By January 2020, 2019-nCoV had entered the United States and begun to spread from person-to-person. This helped researchers learn that this disease was infectious. On February 4, 2020, the FDA ordered researchers to develop a diagnostic test (a way to help identify a disease making people sick) for this disease. Just a few days later, the World Health Organization (WHO), officially gave the illness the name which we all know it by: COVID-19.
As time went by, the disease began to change. These changes are known as “mutations”. Mutations happen randomly in diseases and can cause the disease to become weaker or stronger. We saw this happen with the Delta and Omicron “variants” of COVID-19. These variants challenged scientists working on a vaccine (the shot that keeps us from getting an illness). Now, instead of focusing on just one type of COVID-19, they had to make a shot that could fight back against all variants and any possible new variants.
HOW IT WAS DEFEATED
Eventually, researchers and scientists from around the world began to send out their vaccines. As more people became vaccinated for the first time and "boosted" with future shots, new cases of the disease began to decrease. This was achieved through two types of “immunity”, or resistance to getting sick. The two are known as “acquired immunity” and “herd immunity”. Acquired immunity is when your body learns how to fight off a disease through being exposed to it. This exposure can be through a vaccine or by getting sick with the disease.
Herd immunity, on the other hand, protects people who do not have acquired immunity by having enough people in the surrounding community who do have immunity. This forces the disease to disappear because it can’t find a new person to get sick quick enough. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the disease has gone away forever. It’s still around and it can still mutate and change into something scary again. But for now, the worst variants of the COVID-19 Pandemic have been defeated.
COVID-19 FAST FACTS
COVID-19 is known as a Coronavirus
Coronavirus was given its name from the Latin word Corona, which means crown
Over 13 BILLION vaccines have been given across the world
Signs and symptoms begin 3-5 days after exposure
There are currently 21 variants of COVID-19
Thank you to all of the SPOOKTACULAR readers and be sure to come back next week for more CHILLING stories!