Week of July 26, 2020

What We’re In


“Covid-19” stands for “COronaVIrus Disease 2019”


Coronaviruses are a class of viruses which have crown-like spikes on their surfaces. “Corona” means crown in Latin and Spanish.


Despite the damage they do to humans and other living things, viruses themselves are not technically alive, since they need host cells to survive and reproduce.


The word “quarantine” derives from “quaranta giorini” or “forty days” in Italian. Starting in the 1500s, ships arriving in Venice from ports affected by the bubonic plague had to anchor 40 days and wait before landing, extending the initial 30 day waiting requirement enforced in the city of Ragusa, and this law spread as a protection measure for European coastal cities.


“Vaccine” derives from “vaccina,” a name for cowpox virus (vacca = cow in Latin). In a realization that effectively began modern vaccine science, British physician Edward Jenner observed that local milkmaids who’d had cowpox never got the more pernicious smallpox which frequently ravaged 18th Century English towns. He used a preparation of cowpox virus to immunize people against the closely-related smallpox, though modern virologists suspect it may have been horsepox providing the immunity.


Transmission studies of the closely-related SARS CoV-1 virus produced the familiar 6 feet / 2 meter social distancing figure, which was officially made part of CDC guidelines during the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus.


Washing / sanitizing your hands reduces their potential as spreaders of viruses and other germs by physically removing or destroying these agents before they can hitch a longer ride on your hands and do more damage.