Are Viruses Alive?

Is a virus alive?

Virus Living or nonliving

Viruses are one of the several enemies of human beings that bring diseases and thus pain and sufferings in their wake. They are micro organisms that are much smaller than bacteria but can cause infection once they get a chance to get inside our body through mouth or nose. What is interesting to note is that they are not living things. They are not non living things completely either. There are diseases caused by viruses and there are diseases caused by bacteria but malaria is one pandemic that is caused by the bite of anopheles mosquito that has earlier bitten an infected person’s blood. This is a disease where mosquito injects a person with a parasite called plasmodium which is neither a virus nor bacteria but is a protozoa. In fact, malaria is a pandemic that causes more deaths around the world than even cancer or heart attack. Every year, nearly 100 million people around the world die of malaria infection. But we are talking about viruses, not malaria disease.

Viruses come alive when they invade a living cell of the host

Viruses are not alive in them selves and remain in the environment causing no problem until they get inside the bodies of human beings. Here they attach to a living cell called host and start using the machinery of the cell to make copies of them selves. In fact, a virus contains genetic information about how to replicate itself and forces the host living cell to make use of its resources and create thousands of copies of the virus. These copies multiply in a crazy manner and start infesting other cells of the host forcing all of them to just make more copies of the virus. Viruses are thus not alive but challenge our concept of living things by becoming living once inside a living cell. In fact scientists have acknowledged the importance of viruses in the history of life on our planet. When invented, they were thought to be living organisms but were later demoted as non living things. A virus is merely chemical information until it finds a living host. But the fact that a virus has genetic information or the code to replicate itself makes it dangerous. If we are living because of the ability to respire, then certainly virus is a non living entity.

Throughout history, mankind has been troubled by diseases brought on by viruses. The very fact that they can invade life forms and capture living cells to order them to make their copies is proof enough of their impact on evolution. So whether one calls them living or non living doesn’t make a difference. What we know is that there have been pandemics causing loss of millions of lives earlier as was the case with Spanish Flu way back in 1918. Even today, pandemics like avian flu and swine flu have got people terrified in different parts of the world. A pandemic is an endemic that spreads to a large area of the world quickly.

Swine flu and bird flu are viruses that have wrecked havoc around the world

The news stories of hundreds of thousands of chickens being slaughtered because of the suspicion that they were causing bird flu to human beings are still in the memories of the people. It happened in 1999 and people thought that they could be infected if they ate infected chickens. But scientists proved that if chicken was prepared well cooked, there were no chances of catching bird flu. It was true however, that the flu like symptoms of bird flu could take place in humans as the virus strain got mutated and develop the ability to attack human beings directly. This virus, and not the bird flu virus, affected millions of people around the world and became a pandemic. People were so fearful that they started to wear face masks to safeguard themselves.

The same happened a decade later in 2009 when news of swine flu spreading across the continents was splashed in newspapers and TV news.  Swine flu was a disease of the pigs and produced influenza flu like symptoms such as fever, runny nose, and aches and pains in pigs. Mortality rate in pigs was 1-4%. This swine flu afflicted humans in rare cases where they worked in close proximity of pigs. However, it was the mutated version of swine flu, labeled H1N1 by CDC that caught the imagination of the people around the world as it could easily spread from person to person. H1N1 became a pandemic and is now in post pandemic stage having spread in many continents of the world. To find out more about different types of viruses Click Here