A virus is an extremely basic and ancient form of life which marks the actual demarcation of where life begins and inanimate substances end. A virus is essentially a chemical chain of basic nucleic acid or RNA. By all accounts, RNA is the chemical where life began as it is the simplest unit we’re aware of that can replicate itself. The Human concept of a mass of chemicals having “life” then is represented, in one sense, by those chemicals being able to insure their own survival by procreating themselves. Living organisms can do this, as well as other things to some extent such as move on their own, breathe, react/sense and metabolize/ produce energy. A chain link fence cannot do any of this and so it is not considered alive under any definition.
A virus does not have its own cell however. A bacteria is another microbe that exists but which has its own cell and is therefore much more evolutionarily advanced than a virus but still rather simple compared to higher forms of life. More on that in a minute. A virus has a coating around it that the viral RNA makes by coding for. It protects the virus and provides a transport and introduction mechanism for the viral RNA. Since a virus does not have its own cell it needs to attack and parasitize the cells of animals and plants to get the necessary chemicals for it to make and feed more viral RNA. Thus the virus attacks our cells and attaches to them while injecting its RNA into them.
The viral RNA in part takes over our DNA and forces the production of more viral RNA in our cells (we’re the host in biological terms). This causes our cells to die (the ones that were infected such as some lung cells where a virus that favors living in those cells, such as COVID-19, because they are overwhelmed supporting the viral RNA and soon they die releasing new viral RNA into the blood). This new viral RNA is what is spreading to everyone when we speak or touch each other and the cycle repeats itself.
Darwin, Evolution and the Virus
All that the virus is doing is living through its life cycle and procreating its own kind. All life does this or it would have ended in one generation millions of years ago. In fact, the Biologists will tell you that the only reason that life exists seems to be to make new life . I’ll leave the rest of this to the Philosophers and Theologists to explain why that is if at all. A virus then is essentially a pregnant woman taking over someone’s house to have babies, who can then go out and repeat the exact same cycle over time, forever. Life forms have developed defenses over time through the immune system which will kill a virus. Some of us do that better and faster than others. Back to the house take over analogy this would be a home security guard. Some of those guys are better than others, good cop - bad cop in a way.
The result of the virus attacking us, or any living cell(s), is either death for the virus or death for the host (the living host). But note that Human hosts can stand to lose some cells to the virus and still survive as a whole. So, in most cases by far the Human immune system will attack and kill the virus before it kills the Human but in some cases the virus will kill the Human. This is usually in the very elderly or the sick and thereby makes some sense. But no one walks away from the encounter without someone dying.
The reason a quarantine works to stop a Pandemic is because prior to one of the deaths, the virus or the person, there is an incubation period where the virus has colonized the person and hasn’t yet taken hold to grow in numbers sufficient to cause symptoms of disease. But that doesn’t mean the virus isn’t capable of still spreading by person to person contact. COVID-19 does this for 14 days. This means that if you’re around someone in that time period that person, the host, doesn’t know he has a colony of COVID-19 growing in him and neither do you. Under these conditions that person will spread it to you and everyone else that he contacts. You then will do the same and very quickly millions upon millions of people get colonized and become new hosts. This cycle will keep going until it reaches a point where, in essence, either Humanity is wiped off the face of the Earth or the virus is.
Quarantine limits the effect of the virus to those who already have it at the time by preventing any further spread of it. There will always be one of two outcomes with those afflicted people. Either they will die from the virus or they will kill the virus. There is simply no other possible outcome. But, either way the pandemic will end there.
Survival of the Fittest
This concept applies to us as well as the virus and any other life form. The weak will perish compared to the strong given enough time. Evolution is a genius. Viruses, like siblings in a single family, may be related but they still have a different spread of traits. These genetic code tweaks are always occurring because that is the nature of chemistry and physics. It just is how forces and chemicals act and react. But this has survival value because our World is constantly changing and traits that made a life form strong at one point in time may make it weak at another point in time. An example might be a very large, strong animal vs a very small animal. Where pray is large the bigger, stronger animal has the evolutionary advantage but where pray is very small and fast a huge lumbering dinosaur cannot catch it nor does it fill him up if he does. So, the survival of animals in general is dependent on the ability to adapt to a changing environment and this depends on a DNA spread where the genetic code can adapt and survive.
A virus certainly has this ability or it wouldn’t have survived millions of years to be infecting us now. Some viruses in the COVID-19 family are more lethal than others. It’s the luck of the draw which one any single Human gets. But, it isn’t good for the survival of those viruses that have extreme lethality to their own host because if they kill their own host what advantage is that? This means that over time now the lethal forms of the COVID -19 which killed their hosts or got killed by their hosts, will be long gone and only the mild forms of the virus will survive. Soon then, COVID-19 will be a mild viral infection like a cold because this is the evolutionary form of the virus best suited to survive, i.e. the one that has RNA that doesn’t kill its own host. Again, in the house take over example, why should the pregnant lady burn down the very house she needs to deliver more progeny? In general then, the ladies that do this will soon wipe themselves out only leaving smarter, gentler home invaders.
This is the good news but of course mankind will develop a vaccine soon to stimulate Human immune systems to aggressively kick on and kill the COVID -19 virus as soon as it enters our system. And using new and advanced methods the vaccine will not be made to have to recognize the exact strain of the virus to be effective as old vaccines had to do such as with the flu. The vaccine is being made to tell the immune system to turn on when it simply sees those shell spikes on the virus which is common to all of the COVID strains. Pretty smart!
In the next few weeks then Humans must shelter in place and avoid contact as much as possible. It is that 14 day incubation period which is killing our response because it is such an effective tool for the virus to use to trick us that it isn’t there when it is. Remember, you cannot either see the virus nor fool it. But you can easily fool yourself and Humans are great at that. It might be wise to consider that the virus has been here for millions upon millions of years which means it isn’t stupid. Humans have been around for about 100,000 years only and so maybe we could learn something here from our viral great grand parents? It has been said that it’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled. Sooner or later a lie becomes a most inconvenient incumbrance.