Experiential learning about viruses



As for March 6, more than hundred thousand humans got infected by Corona. 148 died in Italy; France has 500 infected, second after Italy in Europe.

China and Italy was badly  hit first by this intelligent virus that has evolved to host unaware humans, keeping them  in good health so they can  “share”  the virus with others.

We know that RNA and DNA containing organisms are made to mutate and evolve. Beside of a biological evolution with acquired immunities, humanity is now in the middle of a cultural evolution learning about viral pathogens.

There is a concurrential conflict still going on between RNA carriers (bacteria and viruses) and DNA carriers (animals and humans)

Like police all over the world must continuously develop new technique to protect against hacker created codes, so must DNA Humanity fight against the evolution of RNA carriers.

With the contagiousness of Corona virus, the world is now learning by concrete experience, how to protect itself from “intelligent” viruses like this.

Humanity is lucky to have a virus that has a 1-3 % fatality rate.

We are in the middle of a Experiential learning process.

Lentiviruses that causes HIV had a combination of long incubation and high mortality but it spread mainly blood by blood which made it much easier to fight.

We must learn to protect ourselves from viruses that mutate to develope both spreading capacity and high mortality. In other words a virus that combines infectivity (like Corona) and mortality (like filoviruses that cause Ebola with viral hemorrhagic fever or  lentiviruses that causes human immunodeficiency (HIV)

I am not a virologist but I made my master in a clinical bacteriology lab (Inst för klinisk bakteriologi) in Göteborg making experiments 6 months with Salmonella typhimurium in a Morbus Chron research. So I studied basic virology. With this post I updated myself with new knowledges about virus and epidemiology.



Exponential learning

Katarina Chmolova Instructional Designer at OpenLearning, wrote a good post about this issue  

She writes among others:

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
Aristotle, in Nichomachean Ethics 

Learning happens in so many different ways. Just like getting your driving licence, an effective learning process involves

  • motivation, information, reflection, thinking, experimenting,
  • and putting new ideas
  • and concepts into practice.

This is referred to as “experiential learning. One of the models of experiential learning was created and presented by David Kolb, an American educational theorist.” Read more in  www.classcentral.com

( Source: www.classcentral.com )


RNA Evolution

I will here take a look at the most known viruses that are the results of a RNA evolution:

  • Bacteriophage
  • Arbovirus
  • Influenza viruses. “Flu viruses”
  • Filovirus “Ebolavirus”
  • Lentivirus “human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV)”
  • Polio
  • Enterovirus
  • Plasmids
  • Herpes simplex 2.
  • Hepatitis B
  • Rhinovirus “cold virus”
  • SARS virus
  • Corona virus


Bacteriophage virus does not infect eucaryote carrying animals like humans. But I include information about this virus as the lifecycle of Bacteriophage is a good example of how viruses replicates and infect. This is how a bacteriophage can look like:

Britannica writes that “Bacteriophage, also called phage or bacterial virus, any of a group of viruses that infect bacteria…. Thousands of varieties of phages exist, each of which may infect only one type or a few types of bacteria or archaea. Phages are classified in a number of virus families; some examples include Inoviridae, Microviridae, Rudiviridae, and Tectiviridae. Like all viruses, phages are simple organisms that consist of a core of genetic material (nucleic acid) surrounded by a protein capsid. The nucleic acid may be either DNA or RNA and may be double-stranded or single-stranded. “ read more in Britannica


arbovirus is an acronym (arthropod-borne virus)

Any of a group of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, or other arthropods. “  lexico.com

www.medicalnewstoday.com  writes:

“””There are many types of arboviruses. The different types of arbovirus are broken down into specific genera.

The three main genera for arboviruses that cause infections in humans are as follows:

  • flavivirus
  • togavirus
  • bunyavirus

Types of flavivirus include the following:

  • yellow fever
  • West Nile virus
  • Zika virus
  • dengue fever
  • Japanese encephalitis”

Read more at www.medicalnewstoday.com 

  • Mutation rate :
  • Average incubation time:
  • Transmission: mosquitos, ticks, or other arthropods.
  • Mortality rate:30% for JEV
  • Disease: Read above.

Influenza virus

There are several types of Influensaviruses: Influenzavirus A, Influenzavirus B, Influenzavirus C, Influenzavirus D

With Isavirus, Thogotovirus, and Quaranjavirus.  influenza viruses are part of the family Orthomyxoviridae.

September2019 the prevailing type was A(H1N1)pdm09


So far, three genera of this virus family have been identified: Cuevavirus, Marburgvirus and Ebolavirus. Structurally, filovirus virions (complete viral particles) may appear in several shapes, a biological features called pleomorphism.”   www.cdc.gov


In the family of retroviruses there is the lentiviruses that causes HIV.

“Lentiviruses persist lifelong. This is a function both of their ability to integrate into the host chromosome and of their ability to evade host immunity. This ability to evade host immunity may be related both to the high mutation rates of these viruses, and to their ability to infect immune cells (macrophages, and in the case of HIV, T-cells).” ( ehs.stanford.edu/reference )

“Lentiviruses belong to the family retroviridae, subfamily Orthoretroviridae, genus Lentivirus, characterized for long incubation periods (lente-, Latin for “slow”). The virions (or virus particles) are enveloped, spherical and within a size range of 80-100 nm in diameter. Inside the envelope (a lipid membrane derived from portions of the host cell membranes (phospholipids and proteins), but include some viral glycoproteins) resides the nucleocapsids or core where the single strand of viral RNA is packaged. One of the most striking features of this virus, from the retroviridae family, is its ability to infect both dividing and non-dividing cells and its ability to integrate a significant amount of viral RNA into the DNA of the host cell, which qualifies them as one of the most efficient methods for gene delivery.” ( ki.se )


Retrovirus. Source: (Wiki )


There are two types:

  • Variola major 
  • Variola minor.

Smallpox was an infectious disease caused by one of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor

“Extinct Genetic Strains of Smallpox – World’s Deadliest Virus – Discovered in the Teeth of Viking Skeletons” (Read more in scitechdaily.com )


The scientific name is Enterovirus C.

“people can shed infectious viruses without having symptoms.” Read more at www.medicinenet.com

“Human enteroviruses are a genus in the family Picornaviridae (small positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses) that were originally classified or named as polioviruses, Coxsackie A viruses, Coxsackie B viruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses.” Read more at www.medicinenet.com


“enteroviruses cause two main types of human disease, polio, and non-polio disease. …. Non-polio enteroviruses may cause a wide range of infections that overlap; for example…

enterovirus: aseptic meningitis with rash, conjunctivitis, hand, foot, and mouth disease (EV-71), paralysis (EV-71), myopericarditis

group A Coxsackie virus: flaccid paralysis, hand, foot, and mouth disease, hemorrhagic conjunctivitis, herpangina, aseptic meningitis (with or without rash)” Read more at www.medicinenet.com

  • Family: Picornaviridae
  • Mutation rate:
  • Average incubation time
  • Transmission:
  • Mortality rate


A plasmid is a small, circular, double-stranded DNA molecule that is distinct from a cell’s chromosomal DNA. Plasmids naturally exist in bacterial cells, and they also occur in some eukaryotes. Often, the genes carried in plasmids provide bacteria with genetic advantages, such as antibiotic resistance.” read more in www.nature.com

I added plasmids despite it is a DNA molecule as it is interesting in research and how our cells can be reprogrammed. The given “antibiotic resistance.” is also interesting. to foresee future threats.

Herpes simplex type 2

A herpes virus that causes genital herpes, which is characterized by sores in the genital area. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. Read more at www.medicinenet.com

  • Family: Herpesviridae
  • Mutation rate:
  • Average incubation time: 3-6 days (2-12)
  • Transmission: sexual
  • Symptom: genital herpes, encephalitis
  • Mortality rate

Herpes Zoster

  • Family:
  • Mutation rate:
  • Average incubation time:
  • Transmission:
  • Symptom: Varicella
  • Mortality rate:

Hepatitis B

Approximately 2 billion individuals in the world have evidence of past or present hepatitis B, and 1.2 million people in the U.S. are chronically infected with hepatitis B. Read more at  www.medicinenet.com

  • Family: Hepadnaviridae
  • Mutation rate:
  • Average incubation time: 4 months, (1-6)
  • Transmission: sexual contact, blood
  • Symptom: cirrhosis or liver failure
  • Mortality rate:


“Human enteroviruses are a genus in the family Picornaviridae (small positive-sense single-stranded RNA viruses) that were originally classified or named as polioviruses, Coxsackie A viruses, Coxsackie B viruses, echoviruses, and enteroviruses. Rhinoviruses are included as enteroviruses by many researchers but not all.” Read more at www.medicinenet.com

SARS virus

French research has understood that there are two families of this Corona virus.

Corona virus

Since the first reports of novel pneumonia (COVID-19) in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, there has been considerable discussion on the origin of the causative virus, SARS-CoV-2 (also referred to as HCoV-19). Infections with SARS-CoV-2 are now widespread, and as of 11 March 2020, 121,564 cases have been confirmed in more than 110 countries, with 4,373 deaths.

SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh coronavirus known to infect humans; SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 can cause severe disease, whereas HKU1, NL63, OC43 and 229E are associated with mild symptoms

Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus.(Read more at/Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9 )

“The new corona virus continues to spread despite significant measures taken by the authorities in China to stop the outbreak. However, this time the fast response coupled with increased knowledge about the nature of the virus means the world is better placed to handle the outbreak compared to 18 years ago when SARS caused widespread concern, says virus researcher Ali Mirazimi, adjunct professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine at Karolinska Institutet.” ( news.ki.se )

A separate analysis by the team suggests that the L-type was derived from the older S-type. The first strain is likely to have emerged around the time the virus jumped from animals to humans. The second emerged soon after that, says the team. Both are involved in the current global outbreak. The fact that the L-type is more prevalent suggests that it is “more aggressive” than the S-type, the team say. Read more: www.newscientist.com/article

“We can fight Corona as a flue but it is not a flue” (Fabrizio Sala , vicepresident at Region Lombardia at Euronews March 11)

French research has understood that there are two families of this Corona virus.

Source: www.nytimes.com

 How corona hijacks a human cell. Read in www.nytimes.com

Read more at onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Family: Coronaviridae




I think that this youtube is a good presentation of epidemiology.



“It’s unclear whether people who recover from COVID-19 will be immune to reinfection from the coronavirus and, if so, how long that immunity will last.” Read more at www.npr.org


Here is a chart with some virus incidences of selected upper respiratory tract infection pathogens. PIV = parainfluenza virus; RSV = respiratory syncytial virus; MPV = metapneumovirus; Group A Strept = group A streptococcus. “ Read more in  emedicine.medscape.com



“Here at Live Science, we’ve compiled a list of the most pervasive myths about the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the disease it causes, and explained why these rumors are misleading, or just plain wrong.” Read more at www.livescience.com

Here are the main titles in the article. I mark with text in bold for myth that may be interesting also for other viruses than Corona. read about these in www.livescience.com

  • Myth: Face masks can protect you from the virus
    “Standard surgical masks cannot protect you from SARS-CoV-2, as they are not designed to block out viral particles and do not lay flush to the face”
  • Myth: You’re waaaay less likely to get this than the flu 
  • Myth: The virus is just a mutated form of the common cold
  • Myth: The virus was probably made in a lab
  • Myth: Getting COVID-19 is a death sentence
  • Myth: Pets can spread the new coronavirus
  • Myth: Lockdowns or school closures won’t happen in the US
  • Myth: Kids can’t catch the coronavirus
    “when children become infected, they seem less likely to develop severe disease”
  • Myth: If you have coronavirus, “you’ll know”
    “early on, infected people may show no symptoms at all.” (ed. due to longer incubation time)
  • Myth: The coronavirus is less deadly than the flu
  • Myth: It’s not safe to receive a package from China
    “coronaviruses can stay on surfaces such as metal, glass or plastic for as long as nine days,”
  • Myth: You can get the coronavirus if you eat at Chinese restaurants in the US



prevention from common cold (Rhinovirus that belongs to the Picornaviridae) is good to practice for most viral infections.

“The common cold refers to a group of symptoms caused by viruses. Rhinoviruses cause the most cases of the common cold, and more than 200 different viruses have been identified that cause cold symptoms. Colds are most often transmitted from one person to another via the hands – for example, by shaking hands with a person who has a cold. Droplets containing the virus may be coughed or sneezed by an infected person into the air and inhaled by another. The virus may contaminate a surface such as a doorknob or countertop.” Read more at www.medicinenet.com

It says

1. Wash your hands often.
2. Avoid touching your face.
3. Don’t smoke
4. Use disposable items if a family member is infected.
5. Keep household surfaces clean.
6. Wash toys
7. Use paper towels
8. Throw tissues away after use
9. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
10. Control stress

Read more at www.medicinenet.com


Type of masks

From Repubblica about FFP2 and FFP3:

According to a Canadian study where hospital personel participated. 20% of those who used surgical masks got flue:

Il Tempo published this table about inhaling and exhaling data for different masks. No sources were given:

Mask effectivenes after wearing time

Searching with the words “Influence on BFE of wearing time of surgical masks”

You dont find masks to buy while many use masks the wrong way, when it is not necessary. Who has a good instruction on how to use masks. Read in www.who.int . Below are the recommendations given by www.who.int .

  • If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.


Saanitizer liquids to protect surfaces are sold out in several countries. I found a site with a receipt (60% alcool, 40 % water or aloe gel solution)


says “Insider talked to Miryam Wahrman, a biology professor at William Paterson University and the author of “The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World,” about exactly how.

All you really need is alcohol, either isopropyl (rubbing) or ethyl (used in beer, wine, and spirits). As long as the solution is at least 60% alcohol, you can rub the liquid into your hands and let them air dry, then you’ll have effectively sanitized them.

“The bottom line is that alcohol is the active ingredient” in hand sanitizer, she said. 

To make the experience a little gentler on your skin, you can moisturize after the alcohol has dried. You can also add a few drops of aloe vera to the rubbing alcohol, but make sure the liquid is over 60% alcohol so that the aloe doesn’t dilute it too much.

“If you drop below 60%, the effectiveness drops very dramatically,” Wahrman said.

A simple recipe

I tried this recipe that makes my hand feel good after sanitizing
(I made 3 dl sanitizer).

  • 1/3 denaturated water with some hand moisture fro dry skin (glycerol or similar to be bought in farmacy)
    (e.g. 1 dl)
  • 2/3 96% alcohol
    (e.g. 2 dl)Calculated with 96% alcool you get a 0.96×2/3=64% sanitizer. You can therefore add some more if you want without passing 80%



 Noone can tell why Corona spread so easily in Italy and now is spreading very fast in France.

I have to hypothesis about this.

Unawareness and myths

Italians (like Frenchmen, have a deeply rooted tradition of accepting close physical relations. Cheek kissing each other among friends is tradition like in Russia. Hand shake is of course also tradition as everywhere in the world.

There is a widely spread myth that cold air is a pathogen that causes cold, bronchitis and pneumonia so people avoid having windows open in winter and often accept vicinity with others.

  • This myth is built in the word in several languages.
  • English: You get a cold if you are in a cold environment.
  • Italian: You get a raffreddore  if you are in a freddo environment.
  • German: You get a erkältung if you are in a kalt environment.
  • Swedish : You get a förkylning if you are in a kyld environment.

Despite many had bronchitis in January on the island of Lipari many were happily talking with each other in the small waiting rooms  wiitng for a   talk withe the  doctor of course with windows and door closed as it was cold outside (about 17 Celsius). the doctor warned them telling them to keep distances but noone moved out.

Italians are used to flu epidemias but I see there has been little knowledge about how influenzaviruses spread itself and how to protect yourself from it except by vaccination.

Believes in Saints

A friend joked about Corona that the Saint Bartolo may save us islanders from Corona. But that joke may reveal a untold tradition that praying enough to the right saint, you are safe. There are saints for all kind of problems. If you travel Saint Christopher may keep you alive. If you travel with boat then pray to Saint Bartolo. The Romans had many gods. The Italians have many saints giving them immunity from all kind of dangers.

I wonder if this make people less interested in other solutions or motivated to protect themselves.

With the corona epidemia in Italy, Italians are now learning a lot about how to prevent spreading of this virus. As even the Vatican that should be safe from all kind of disease, also has a corona case, Italians are learning that praying to saints does not help them. So they are now starting to be preventive, accepting that schools and other activities are closed and prohibited.


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