What is a Virus?

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What is a Virus?

A virus is a microscopic infectious agent composed of genetic material with the ability to cause various diseases. These minuscule entities have a unique structure and behaviour that distinguishes them from other microorganisms.

In this article, we look into viruses, exploring their characteristics, size and the challenges they present to our health.

What is a Virus?

Viruses are infectious agents that straddle the boundary between living and non-living entities. Unlike bacteria, fungi or parasites, viruses lack the cellular machinery necessary for independent life. Instead, they consist of genetic material (either DNA or RNA) surrounded by a protective protein coat called a capsid. Some viruses also have an outer envelope derived from the host cell membrane. Viruses are notorious for their ability to hijack the cellular machinery of host organisms to replicate and spread. This often causes diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe illnesses, including flu and COVID.

Size Matters

The size of viruses is so minute that they are measured in nanometres (nm) or micrometres (μm). In comparison to bacteria, which are considerably larger, viruses are on the order of magnitude of 0.02 to 0.3 micrometres. To put this into perspective, the average human hair is about 50 to 70 micrometres in diameter. This diminutive size enables viruses to infiltrate host cells with precision, exploiting cellular mechanisms for their replication.

HEPA Filters and Virus Filtration

Given their microscopic size, it is challenging to prevent the spread of viruses through traditional filtration methods. However, High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters have proven to be effective in capturing and filtering out particles as small as 0.3 micrometres. While this encompasses most bacteria, many viruses fall below this threshold. HEPA filters operate by using densely packed fibres to trap particles. This makes them an essential tool in maintaining clean and safe environments, particularly in healthcare settings, where controlling the spread of infectious agents is crucial.

In Summary…

Viruses are remarkable entities that pose a constant challenge to human health due to their ability to exploit host cells for replication. Their minuscule size, measured in micrometres, enables them to infiltrate cells with precision, leading to various diseases. HEPA filters stand out as effective barriers against small particles, providing a crucial line of defence against airborne viruses. Understanding viruses and the tools available to mitigate their spread is essential in the ongoing battle against infectious diseases.

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