Education, Latest News, Vaageesha Das

What is a virus and how do we stay healthy?

I am sure everyone is aware of the coronavirus pandemic that has overtaken the world. There have been more than 1 million confirmed cases worldwide.

Some ways we can help slow down this pandemic are to practice social distancing, staying home and avoiding contact with people if we are infected or think we might be and practicing good hygiene so we don’t get infected. Researchers are working on a vaccine for coronavirus.

Our blood has red and white blood cells. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. They, unlike other cells, don’t have a nucleus, which means they don’t have DNA (genetic material).
White blood cells are part of the immune system. They help fight off diseases. White cells are made up of macrophages, B-lymphocytes andT-lymphocytes.

Macrophages “eat” up viruses/bacteria and dead or dying cells. They leave behind the antigens of the virus/bacteria. Antigens are substances that cause the immune system to respond with antibodies (antigens on red blood cells are the basis of different blood types). B-lymphocytes produce the antibodies (proteins that are specifically made to counteract antigens) that attack the antigens left behind by macrophages. T-lymphocytes attack infected cells.

Once the immune system gets over an infection, it can use T-lymphocytes, also called memory cells, to “remember” how to protect itself against the disease. When it encounters the same disease-causing virus/bacteria, T-lymphocytes get into action and B-lymphocytes produce antibodies once they recognize the antigens.

The general way vaccines work is by exposing the body to some aspect of a disease, which causes the body to produce T-lymphocytes, and it also causes the B-lymphocytes to remember how to fight the disease in the future. But, it takes a few weeks for the immune system to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes, so if a person becomes infected with a disease just before or just after getting a vaccination, they can have symptoms and get the disease they were vaccinated for since the vaccine was unable to provide protection due to the fact that there wasn’t enough time for it.

There are a few types of vaccines: Live, attenuated vaccines, inactivated vaccines, toxoid vaccines, subunit vaccines, conjugate vaccines, DNA vaccines, and recombinant vector vaccines.

Live, attenuated vaccines are when weaker forms of the virus/bacteria are put into the body. These can’t actually cause disease in the body, and they are effective enough to cause a lifelong immunity but they can’t be given to people with a weaker immune system.

Measles is a disease for which live, attenuated vaccines are used. Inactivated vaccines are those that contain dead pathogens. They require more than one dosage to be effective.

The polio vaccine is an inactive vaccine and was created by Jonas Salk. Toxoid vaccines have to do with pathogens that produce toxins. These weaken the toxins. The immune system is able to fight against these toxins if they ever make a

Tetanus is a disease that is protected against by toxoid vaccines.

Subunit vaccines isolate a specific part, or a subunit, of the pathogen. The subunit is usually a protein or a carbohydrate of the pathogen.

Hepatitis B and Influenza are examples of diseases that subunit vaccines protect against.

Conjugate vaccines have to do with some pathogens with an outer coat made up of sugar. This coat disguises their antigens and is able to trick young immune systems into thinking the pathogen isn’t dangerous. Scientists place an antigen on the coat so the immune system starts recognizing the coat as something to be attacked.

Hib disease (Haemophilus influenza Type B) is a disease that has this type of coat.

DNA vaccines are still being developed but the idea is the pathogens’ DNA is extracted for the vaccine. The immune system then uses the DNA to produce antibodies to attack the pathogen. Recombinant vector vaccines are also experimental and are similar to DNA vaccines. Scientists take the DNA of harmful pathogens and put it in a harmless pathogen. This trains the immune system to recognize and fight both pathogens.

For some diseases, immunity wears off pretty quickly and so getting vaccinated regularly is essential to health. There are also other diseases that mutate and develop (for example, the flu) and so it is important to get updated vaccinations for those diseases. Talk to a doctor or other medical expert about the importance of vaccinations and how often you should get the vaccination if you have questions.

There has been a misconception that vaccines cause autism. This has been disproven with recent, multiple studies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines do not cause autism.

Hopefully, the vaccine for a coronavirus will be available soon. Make sure to follow CDC guidelines and stay safe and healthy. Let’s slow down this pandemic and flatten the curve.

Vaageesha Das is a sophomore grader at Morgantown High School. Today’s information comes from: Center Sfor Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Understanding How Vaccines Work[PDF file]. Retrieved from cattle; Coronavirus Cases: (n.d.). Retrieved from
coronavirus/; Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism. (2020, March 26). Retrieved from; Writers, S. (2019, November 22). How Vaccines Work. Retrieved from cattle