Question 1. What is a Virus?

A. Definition and Background

A virus evolved from living organisms.  In general it can reproduce inside a host cell, and it can die. Most viruses are fragments of RNA but some have DNA.  Viruses are not always our enemy.  Many attack and kill bacteria.  Some believe that viruses may be the reason mammals exist.  The placenta that protects the baby inside the womb is made of the same protein that surrounds and protects many viruses. 

B. Do Viruses Mutate?

DNA molecules have many built-in checks and balances that protect against mutations. RNA does not have those same protections, so mutations are frequent. Some mutations turn out to be harmful to the virus. If the virus mutates often, it has a high probability of killing itself. In this regard, harmful viruses that mutate often can be a good thing.  Doctors in Italy have reported observations of the CORVID-19 virus mutating into a less deadly form.

C. Can We Live with Harmful Viruses?

We have been living with harmful viruses for a long time -750 million years for animals and much longer for plants. Anyone who says that a bad virus will wipe us off the face of the earth is wrong. Viruses only survive when they have a host. If the host dies there is no ability for the virus to reproduce. Additionally, there is no evidence that any animal has gone extinct because of a virus.

D. Can Individuals Protect Themselves?

The protection against viruses is relatively simple.  Avoid people with a fever, practice good hygiene, stay healthy, exercise, and be happy.  Bad viruses can cause bad things when our immune system is compromised.  During a pandemic there are a few extra precautions. If you’re sick stay home and avoid people with a fever.   The Federal Guidelines provide great recommendations. 

Get a flu shot.  A study out of Italy showed that those people who had flu shots had a significantly lower COVID-19 death rate.


Viruses flow from life.  Most are made up of RNA molecules and many are surrounded by a protective protein coating. All viruses require a host cell to reproduce. They are delicate and often mutate themselves out of existence. Harmful viruses have been around for 750 million years, yet no virus has ever caused the extinction of an animal.

The two best measures for protection against viruses during a pandemic are to practice good hygiene and avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever.

A study out of Italy showed that getting a flu shot dramatically reduced the COVID-19 death rate.