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What is the corona virus?

Science Education for the Early Grades Forums Open Discussion What is the corona virus?

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      Bernard Nebel
      Keymaster

      My heart goes out to all you amidst this pandemic. I hope you are remaining safe. I have not said anything about covid-19 because I have no expertise in the field and can only defer to the advice of your doctors and health experts. However, your kids may have an interest is just what viruses are and how they work. (There is a bit in Lesson B-18 (Volume II), but here is brief outline.

      1. The virus particle consists of a strand of RNA (or DNA), which is the genetic code for the virus, coiled up within a coat of protein molecules. By itself, it has no means metabolism or reproduction. Therefore:

      1. Viruses are considered nonliving. (They can be stored indefinitely with no food, water, or air.) By themselves, they cannot be cultured.
      2. The protein coat of the virus has special molecules that enable it to latch onto a living cell and then insert its RNA (or DNA) into that cell.
      3. The living cell mistakes the viral RNA/DNA for its own and proceeds to manufacture more of that RNA/DNA and also the proteins it encodes.
      4. These assemble themselves into new virus  (many hundreds).
      5. The cell is killed in process releasing the viral particles, which proceed to infect more cells, and so on.
      6. Then it is a “race” between the living organism’s ability to mount defense mechanisms fighting off the viral attack or the virus killing the organism and moving on to others.

      The RNA of covid-19 has been deciphered and the proteins it codes for determined as spelled out in the following link.

      (The description is highly detailed and beyond anything that needs to be learned at the elementary level. Nevertheless, the pictures of the proteins produced and their various roles can give kids an appreciation for the complexity of the cell’s systems and the diabolical nature of the virus.) The one sure cure is a vaccine that prepares the organism to attack and kill the virus immediately on its entry into the body.

      Type into your browser:

      Bad News Wrapped in Protein: Inside the Coronavirus Genome-NewYorkTimes

      Please submit kid’s questions or comments.

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