Surviving Covid-19
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Surviving Covid-19

Beating the Delta Variant (Or Losing The World to It)

(Complete With Childish Drawings of Covid-19 Viruses)

What Makes a Virus so Virusy?

There are two ways a virus can mutate to defeat our body’s defenses.

The virus gets into a cell by sticking its spiky bit to a receptor on the cell surface. If an antibody shaped to stick to the the spike sticks finds it clogs it up, it can’t attach to a cell and reproduce.

And now the world is asking “What the hell, Delta?”

Delta has a few mutations that make it very good at attaching to a cell, invading it, and then getting that cell to make thousands of baby Delta viruses which are also very good at attaching to cells, invading them, and then getting those cells to make thousands of baby Delta viruses. That process moves fast, and it’s overwhelming — every time a cell is infected, it dies. Whatever that cell was doing, protecting, producing, etc., is not happening now. If enough die together, that can tear a tiny hole in the part of the body they were in. That’s how a virus kills: one cell at a time — but it adds up.

This is the process that Delta is so damn good at: attaching to cells, getting into them immediately, and getting the instructions to make thousands of new Delta viruses locked and loaded as fast as possible.
This SARS-CoV-2 virion is screwed. It’s clogged with antibodies and getting eaten by a T-Cell. Ha! Good riddance.

But Why Do Vaccinated People Get Delta?

Let’s step back — what do we mean when we say someone “gets” a viral disease? That may seem like a straightforward question, but it’s not. If it’s a question of any virus entering the body, then you “get” viruses all the time and never know, possible thousands a day, but they’re not compatible with your cells. They become so much organic dust you flush out of your body, because they have failed to find their natural victim cell. When virions that can attach to your cells get into to you, but they are something your body knows how to fight, they may in fact reproduce for a short while before your body overwhelms them and turns them back into that organic dust to flush out. You may have the virus, but never really have the disease per se. But there’s a fuzzy period there, a brief window, where a few virions can reproduce, and maybe even leave your body again, before being dealt with — especially if there were a lot of particles up front, or it takes a moment for your body to respond. Generally that doesn’t matter. But with Delta, being so damn Delta, it can.

During that moment, during that not quite infected but not quite free of the virus moment, there’s a slim potential to test positive or even pass a very aggressive virus, though that chance is terribly slim for most viral diseases. But then, there’s Delta, the Try-Hard of coronaviruses, reproducing as much as it can before it gets squashed. With a good initial dose or a sluggish response, it might be detectable in a a vaccinated person. It might even be transmissible for a brief time. Did that person get Covid-19? Usually not in any medically significant way. Sometimes, because Delta is so very aggressive, they get Covid-19 a bit before their body’s immune system kicks into action. But that immune system will always move faster if you’re vaccinated than if you’re not — that’s just the nature of immunity.

It’s Not A New Virus

Delta Variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that cause COVID-19: still the same damn virus.

It Could Get Much Worse.

It is inevitable that if SAR-CoV-2 continues to cycle through enough human bodies, it will change shape enough that our current vaccines won’t work, and we’ll need new ones. That’s the immune escape part of the puzzle, and so far, that hasn’t managed to happen in a variant that also has Delta’s speedy and efficient infectivity. If it does happen before we vaccinate the world, this 2 year pandemic could become a five year, 10 year, or more, pandemic.



Quinn Norton shares ideas, designs, and ways to think about getting through the pandemic.

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Quinn Norton

A journalist, essayist, and sometimes photographer of Technology, Science, Hackers, Internets, and Civil Unrest.