We have learned so much about COVID-19

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The year 2020 will go down in human history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Infection from the SARS-COV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 has caused millions of people to become sick and many to die.

Like bacteria, viruses have been incredibly successful in our world and humans have had a long history of association with them. For as long as we know, they have caused disease and death, and over time have even become part of the DNA that is found in our cells. About 8% of the DNA each of us carries comes from viruses that long-ago infected our ancestors and became patched into the human genome we each carry.

For those who only have a passing interest or knowledge of science, it may be difficult to fully understand or appreciate just how impressive the scientific developments surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have been. We started 2020 knowing next to nothing about the novel virus causing COVID-19. Never before has the scientific community learned so much about a single virus in such a short period of time. There is still a great deal to be learned, but the work that has led to the rapid development of a vaccine has been compared by some as impressive as the "moonshot" undertaken decades ago.

The early sequencing of the genetic code of the COVID virus by the Chinese and new technology have made the rapid production of a vaccine possible. Many of those infected with the virus have various symptoms that last from one to 21 days. However, as many as 20% of patients have symptoms lasting for at least 12 weeks (post-acute COVID patients) and some who go beyond 12 weeks with symptoms (long COVID). More information is needed about why some people have such varying responses to an infection as well as how to care for them.

Another issue that has arisen is the finding of new mutant strains of the COVID-19 virus and what these and future mutations may add to the problems we are already facing. It is now up to the general public to take the continued threat of the virus seriously and to act responsibly in order to stay on top of any future problems the virus may present.

Larrie Stone is a retired Dana College science professor.

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