In this story, you will learn how the coronavirus works in the human body, and how the body can fight it!
There is a lot we still don’t know about the 2019 novel coronavirus, but we do know that it is a virus.
Everywhere in the world there are organisms so small that we can’t see them, like bacteria, fungi and viruses. Viruses are the smallest.
A virus such as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is like a robot. On the outside it has a hard shell. Inside the shell is the virus’ genetic code.
Like a robot’s computer program, the virus’ genetic code provides mission-critical instructions. The virus has one mission:
Make more viruses !
But first, it must infect a living cell.
Your body is made up of cells. Your skin, blood, heart - all are made of cells that do different jobs. Viruses want to infect these cells and get inside - where your genetic code lives!
Infecting a cell isn’t easy. The virus must have a protein on its shell that attaches perfectly to a protein on the cell, like a key into a lock. Different cells have different protein locks.
But once a cell is infected, machinery inside of the cell reads the virus’ genetic code by mistake! It’s like mind control!
The novel coronavirus has spike proteins on its surface that attach to special proteins on the surface of cells in our airways, including our lungs.
Because the coronavirus infects cells in our airways, it can spread between people as we cough and sneeze and touch things that others have coughed or sneezed on.
If someone coughs near you, viruses can fly out of their airways and land on you. You might breathe them in or accidentally rub them into your eyes or up your nose.
Once the coronavirus has made its way into your throat, eyes or nose, it bumps around trying to attach to your cells.
What happens when the coronavirus attaches to and infects a cell in your airways? It forces the cell to read its genetic code and make new viruses that can go infect other cells.
Infected cells in your body can make millions of copies of the coronavirus in a short time. At first, you don’t even know this is happening.
But as more cells in your airways fill up with viruses, you start to feel sick. You cough. You could even send the virus flying onto other people.
The coronavirus can make you feel hot and give you a fever. It can make you feel tired and make you cough.
But your body doesn’t just let the virus take over. You have an “army” of proteins and cells that fight the virus! This army includes spies, patrols, messengers and soldiers.
Spies inside of your cells can alert patrols if they find that viruses have taken over. The patrols tell the infected cells to self-destruct! They also call soldiers to the fight.
As the army begins to fight the virus, you also get more symptoms of being sick, such as fever. But the fever makes your immune system “army” better at destroying the viruses.
After a few days, the army clears your body of millions of viruses. When the army wins, it also creates antibodies that quickly recognize coronaviruses if they ever return!
But some people have an army that is old and tired, or busy dealing with other threats like diabetes, cancer or heart disease. Their army struggles to find and destroy infected cells.
You can protect people who might get very sick and protect yourself by staying home, covering your coughs and washing your hands often.
You and your family can do things to prepare your bodies for a virus fight! Eat fruits and vegetables, get plenty of sleep, and get your hearts pumping with exercise!
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