How Copper Kills the Viruses Which Cause Colds and Flu
What you Need to Know about the Flu
If you have ever experienced the flu, you know how incredibly awful it feels. You feel chills, aches, and pains all over your body. You become confined to your bed and are unable to move much because your body needs to rest as it recuperates. Although most of us have found ourselves stuck with the flu, what exactly is the flu and what does it do to our bodies?
The flu has been around for thousands of years and has caused sickness and death to multitudes of people. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is speculated to have originated when animal domestication and permanent settlement first began.
A significant outbreak of the flu was recorded as early as the 15th century. It is reported that this outbreak started in Rome and spread to other areas in Europe as well as Africa. The pandemic is reported to have caused the deaths of approximately 8,000 people and severely affected several cities in Spain.
Perhaps the greatest pandemic of influenza happened in the years 1918-1919. This pandemic was known as the “Spanish influenza” and killed an estimated 50 million people. This occurrence was considered the most lethal outbreak of the influenza virus. In a study by Taubenberger and Morens, they note that all modern influenza pandemics can be traced back to the Spanish influenza.
What Happens During an Influenza Invasion
Once the influenza virus enters the body, it travels to the lungs where it attaches itself to a host cell’s surface. The virus then opens and sets loose its genetic information in the nucleus of the cell. The virus creates copies of itself using the cell’s nucleus and overtakes its function. The replicas of the virus then travel to the cell’s membranes and kill it. The death of the cell permits the virus to release itself into the body so that it can infect other cells.
The immune system then sets out to fight the foreign invader. Some of the cells that engage in this battle include macrophages, neutrophils, cytokines, chemokines, and T lymphocytes.
In a study by van de sant et al, researchers learned how the influenza virus can avoid the immune system’s offensive response. In particular, the “antigenic drift” of the influenza virus permits it to escape the antibodies’ neutralizing activity as induced by previous infections or vaccination. This is the reason why flu vaccines do not provide a lifetime of protection and must be updated every year.
Symptoms of Flu
The unpleasant feeling you experience when you have the flu is a side-effect of your immune system’s efforts at fighting the virus. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, some of the symptoms you will experience when you have the flu include:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills
Runny or stuffy nose
Muscle or body aches
Vomiting and diarrhea (occurs more commonly in children than adults.)
One of the main reasons why headaches occur during the flu is because Interleukin-1, an inflammatory type of cytokine, is activated while the body is fighting off the virus. This cytokine is vital to the development of T cells, which help kill the virus. As this process unfolds, the brain is affected, particularly the hypothalamus, which regulates the body’s temperature. Meanwhile, muscle aches are caused by the increase of muscle-degrading genes and the reduction of muscle-generating genes.
Although the immune system works hard to eradicate the influenza virus, all that work leaves the immune system weakened and vulnerable. This makes a person more susceptible to other severe infections. These complications may include bacterial pneumonia, bronchitis, dehydration, sinus issues, and ear infection. Worsening of pre-existing conditions may also occur, which conditions include diabetes, chronic congestive heart failure, or asthma.
Certain people are at a higher risk for severe flu. Among them are people 65 years old and older, children, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions.
The Transmission of Flu
The flu is highly contagious, and a person with the virus can infect others even before the symptoms start manifesting themselves within the host. This means that you can pass on the virus even before you know you have it.
When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, thousands of droplets containing the viruses spread in the air and can land in the nose and mouth of another person. You can also get infected with the influenza virus when you touch an object with the virus on it and then touch your nose or mouth.
In a study by Lowen et al., researchers determined that influenza virus transmission is dependent on relative humidity and temperature. The researchers performed 20 experiments that involved varying humidity and used guinea pigs as hosts. They discovered that the influenza virus transmission favored cold and dry conditions.
The most common season for the flu falls in autumn and winter. However, the flu can still spread year-round. It can start around October, have peak periods around December and February, and then persist in late May.
Multiple hypotheses seek to explain why the flu season happens around these times of the year. One theory is that people tend to stay indoors more often during colder months, with the result that the virus is more likely to spread in enclosed spaces where more people are breathing the same air.
Another theory is that reduced exposure to the sun, which results in decreased absorption of Vitamin D and melatonin, weakens the immune system, making it more susceptible to the influenza virus. Another theory is that the influenza virus thrives in the cold and dry air of winter rather than the warm and humid air of summer.
What You Need to Know About Colds
Although the flu and the common cold are caused by different viruses, they are both respiratory illnesses and have similar symptoms. As a result, it is often challenging to distinguish between a flu and a cold based only on observing symptoms. The flu is usually much more intense than colds, and people with colds are more likely to suffer from runny or stuffy noses. Colds are less likely to result in serious health complications such as pneumonia.
Like the flu, colds are more common during the "cold season", which are considered the be the winter months from September to April in the United States. As with the flu, the viruses that cause colds are believed to spread more easily during the winter, when there is a drop in temperature and humidity.
More than 200 types of viruses are known to cause colds, but the most common one is called the rhinovirus, which is thought to be responsible for at least 50% of common colds.
How Copper Can Help
Copper has been used for centuries for its antimicrobial properties. Some studies have considered the effects of copper against the influenza virus. One such study, discovered that copper ions had the effect of inactivating the influenza virus.
Another researched how copper-infused face masks affected the influenza virus. Face masks permeated with copper oxide were able to filter more than 99.85% of air-borne viruses. Researches also discovered that no infectious human influenza viruses were recovered from the face masks with the copper oxide, compared to the control masks that did not contain copper ions.
In addition, carried out a study focused on copper’s ability to kill microbes. In particular, the researchers explored copper’s effectiveness at “contact killing”, which is when bacteria, viruses, and yeast are quickly killed when they come into contact with copper surfaces.
One principle that is attributed to copper’s antimicrobial capability is known as the “oligodynamic effect”. Research outlined the mechanism of this phenomenon, which essentially comes about by way of copper ions penetrating the cell wall of microbes. Copper ions bind to various parts of the cell, such as the DNA, RNA, cellular proteins and respiratory enzymes, which has the effect of immobilizing the cell.
Another interesting study, this one conducted explored the effects of copper on the inactivation of the influenza virus compared to stainless steel. In their experiment, the researchers introduced two million influenza virus particles onto sheets of copper and stainless steel. They then incubated the subjects. The results showed that, after several hours, 500,000 virus particles were present on the stainless steel whereas only 500 active virus particles were present on the copper.
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