Thursday, February 16, 2012

Norovirus, Worms and the Immune System

In case you haven't heard, there is a nasty virus going around called the Norwalk virus, a member of the Norovirus genus. For those of you interested, it is a single-stranded RNA virus that lacks an envelope. While this virus is not likely to cause you long term harm, its short term effects are less than pleasant. This is your stereotypical stomach-bug and it will cause all of the nasty symptoms that pepto claims to cure. However, if you do happen to contract this circular guy (as can be seen by the picture above) your symptoms will pass in a day or two and you can once again keep your three meals a day where they belong. The joy of the human immune system is that it has little tolerance for bugs such as the Norovirus and it knows how to deal with them quickly. Just a few ideas to keep in mind: wash your hands frequently, wash and cook your food properly, and stay away from anyone who is pale, clammy, and looks like a yard sale. 

By the way, as it was brought up to me by one of my peers, antibacterial hand-sanitizer is just that, antibacterial. Lathering up twelve times a day will not protect you from the Norovirus, as it is a virus and not a bacteria. 

If you are interested in the immune system at all, you should definitely read this article from the Wall Street Journal:

In a Squeaky-Clean World, a Worm Might Help Fight Disease

The immune system is a curious thing and when it gets bored it creates problems. With our tightly regulated food system and parasite-free diet, we have brought the recession to our immune system and now part of it has been laid-off. Like a displaced worker, our immune system has found something else to do. Instead off dealing with internal parasites like it did for our ancestors, it has found a new calling and now attacks our bodies. This is the reason we have such a high occurrence of auto-immune diseases in our world today. It appears, with the ingestion of a few well-selected bugs, such as the whipworm, our immune system can once again practice its trade and can leave the other parts of our bodies alone.

Thank  you for reading!


Concealing an illness is like keeping a beach ball under water.
-Karen Duffy