What the Flu?

December 10, 2010

Rheanna Sand


And now for something completely different: true or false! Test your knowledge about influenza, right here, right now!

True or False: Cold weather causes colds.

TRUE! Okay, the causality isn't that direct, but there is a connection. Contrary to popular belief, your immune system is just fine in the snowy months, but the fact that winter throats, dried and cracked from the cold, are more susceptible to infection, doesn't help. Plus, the cold, dry air sucks the moisture out of the virus-laden droplets we cough and sneeze out, making the virus float around longer. NIH scientists studying viral envelopes - the outer shell that houses what little genetic material viruses have - also found that the fatty coat was more stable in the cold than in the melting heat. So, I guess that means viruses have the upper hand for, what, only 67% of my life?

True or False: You are most contagious RIGHT before you show flu symptoms.

FALSE! This is crazy! Think about it. You are showing symptoms because your body is riddled with viruses. The more viruses you carry, the more sick you feel. Viruses are spread by turning us into a drippy mess. If you can't control the fluids coming out of your face, you probably shouldn't show it in public.

True or False: Lysol and lemon oil are antivirals.

NEIN! Antivirals are drugs taken to combat a viral infection, such as Tamiflu, or interferon. Viricides are agents that deactivate or destroy a virus outside the body, like a disinfectant. Lysol and lemon oil are used in this way, and are thus considered viricides. Not for consumption.

True or False: Viruses can be filtered from your blood.

TRUE! Researchers for a company out of San Diego called Aethelon Medical invented a dialysis-like machine that filters viruses from a patients' blood in as little as a few hours. The entire blood supply flows through in about 8 minutes, but takes a few sweeps to reduce the viral load to levels that can prolong the life and comfort of HIV, Hepatitis C, and even plain-old flu sufferers. The removal of viruses is not simply mechanical - as in, the filter is not just mesh, it is studded with antibodies that target specific viruses and pull them from the bloodstream. Something tells me Keith Richards already owns one.

Did you get them all right? Good job! Give yourself a pat on the back. Then go wash those filthy mitts before you need to get your blood filtered.


Blindsite on December 14, 2010
Does this mean they could come up with a cure for aids? Although even if they did they probably wouldn't want to release it. It isn't profitable for Big Pharma to actually cure diseases.
Ryan Shannon on December 14, 2010
@Blindsite: Cure AIDS, unlikely. HIV mutates extremely rapidly - any single patient infected by the virus can have dozens of differently immunologically-presenting HIV virus sub-types in their blood. This is part of the reason it is so successful in evading the natural antibody-mediated immune response. A filtering machine also relies on antibodies, meaning that you would need an antibody specific to the HIV surface proteins. While a more generic one may be possible to filter blood externally, it would still need to be fairly specific to the viral structure. Hence, while you may successfully filter most of the virus, it is unlikely that you could ever get all of it. And don't kid yourself - the pharmaceutical company that successfully markets a true cure for any viral infection will be able to set prices for governments and make billions off the discovery. This "no release for cure" conspiracy theory nonsense that flits about is exactly that - there would be big money in viral cures, just as there already is in antibiotics.
Scientist on January 17, 2011
That is a picture of an Adenovirus, not Influenza virus!
Rheanna Sand on January 17, 2011
Ummm, I'm pretty sure I labeled the picture, scientist...

Okay! You got me. I just labeled it now. Thanks for clearing that up for the readers! :)
Scientist on January 18, 2011
Thanks for coming clean, I thought I was going mad :)



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