Coronavirus: what we’ve learned in a year
Over the last year, the world has been reeling from the massive changes brought about by the coronavirus.
Although not much was known about the virus this time last year, there are now three authorized vaccines being used to combat COVID-19 in the United States and many more around the world.
The effort put in by scientists around the world brought us to our current knowledge on the virus and how to mitigate its spread, far from where the world was when it all started.
Back in December 2019, there were reports in Wuhan, China, regarding a pneumonia outbreak, that we now know is one of the severe consequences of contracting the virus.
The World Health Organization, in cooperation with Chinese health officials, announced that the virus at the root of these infections had some evidence of human-to-human transmission, later urging countries to prepare for the threat.
It wasn’t established exactly how the virus was transmitted between people, whether through droplets, contact or other means.
Later in March, however, it was established that the methods of transmission included airborne, droplets, contact and mother-to-child.
Evidence was gathered only a month later that passing the coronavirus on to others is possible before any symptoms manifested in an infected person.
With these possible modes of transmission confirmed, masks were put into practice to reduce the spread, especially from those that are asymptomatic and moving throughout communities.
Newer symptoms, like loss of taste and smell, began to be reported aside from shortness of breath, fever and chills.
Out of over 100 potential vaccines vying for the Food and Drug Administration emergency authorization, Pfizer beat many to the punch being the first authorized vaccine in December 2020.
It was a recently developed mRNA vaccine that carries instructions for cells to produce a portion of the spike protein that’s unique to the coronavirus.
The produced spike protein will then be displayed on a cell’s surface so the immune system can create antibodies to combat any foreign bodies that carry the same protein.
The Moderna vaccine is the only other mRNA vaccine with emergency authorization from the FDA for distribution. Johnson & Johnson followed with their viral vector vaccine.
With these newly developed vaccines, the UH community is slowly easing back into a sense of normalcy with classes in the fall returning to in-person formats, but the University continues to heed the advice of local health officials.
This past semester, vaccines were made available on campus to eligible recipients along with COVID-19 testing kiosks in front of the student centers.
In a letter to UH students and faculty earlier this year, College of Medicine dean Stephen Spann urged for diligence despite the light at the end of the tunnel.
Spann warned that although vaccines will be available to the public, mask wearing and social distancing will still be necessary to break the chain of infection.
“It will take all these tools to win this fight,” Spann said. “But I’m confident we can do it.”
For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.