“Viral load” has become a buzzword since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. But what does it really mean?
In short, it is the numerical expression of the amount of virus in a given volume of liquid.
But is it so sharp and dry that the more infectious viral particles a person is exposed to at the point of infection (the innocuous), the worse they will feel?
And to what extent does viral load affect how easily someone can catch and spread the virus?
How does viral load work when infecting people?
The World Health Organization says that coronavirus can spread from the mouth or nose of an infected person in tiny liquid particles when they cough, sneeze, speak, sing or breathe with difficulty. Current evidence suggests that the main way the virus spreads is through respiratory droplets between people who are in close contact with each other.
” It’s a numbers game,” Professor Stuart Neil, head of the Department of Infectious Diseases at King’s College London, told Euronews.
” If you breathe in a million virus particles instead of 100,000 virus particles, then you are about 10 times more likely to become infected.”
” The more infected cells you have, the more damage the virus does, the more inflammatory response it induces and the sicker you feel,” he added.
But he cautioned that this relationship was not “a straight-line correlation,” since factors such as not all virus particles are as infectious as others make the calculation more complicated.
If you contracted the virus by touching something with particles and rubbing your face, your exposure to the innocuous is much less than if someone in an intensive care unit with COVID-19 were to cough into their face, for example.
Neil added that this knowledge of the virus is based on experimental systems carried out in a laboratory and said that how the virus transmission develops in real life is difficult to fully replicate in an artificial environment.
Does a higher viral load lead a COVID patient to have more severe symptoms?
” There is not a great correlation between the amount of virus that can be detected and how sick someone is,” he said.
” There are many examples of people who have quite high viral loads and are relatively asymptomatic,” he argued.
” There is no straight line to say that if you contract this amount of virus, you will get sick, it doesn’t work that way.”
Although, Neil went on to explain that if you get a larger innocuous, you are more likely to get sick, as the speed at which the virus replicates could be attributed to this.
What can I do to reduce the amount of particulate matter I am exposed to?
” Every little barrier you put in the way accomplishes something,” Neil explained, referring to wearing masks, hand washing, social distancing and other measures to combat COVID-19.
He said that if you sit next to someone instead of facing him and open the windows to disperse the particles, you can lower the viral load you get from an infected person.
However, nothing is as effective as not seeing someone face to face and without physical contact; Without these methods, you cannot reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 to zero, he explained.
Neil added that even the vaccines that are currently being rolled out in Europe are not a silver bullet to stop transmission, as we don’t yet know how they prevent people from being infectious to others, and we won’t “for some time.” .
” People who have received the vaccine, especially if they have only received the first dose, should not assume that all bets are off and that they are completely safe for others,” he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism