Why Is COVID-19 “Novel?”
By: Jim Virkler
Mankind is confronted with a blizzard of multidimensional news concerning COVID-19. Consequently, we will comment on a few elements of the “novel” coronavirus phenomenon, especially, why COVID-19 is a “novel” disease. Novel connotes new, never encountered before. A coronavirus is a concomitant of viruses in general. Coronaviruses consist of a family of viruses—a taxonomic group of viruses having a variable effect on our environment and on humans. The well known “family of coronaviruses” is a large group. Some members of the family coronavidae cause upper-respiratory illnesses. Many of these coronaviruses originated in animals—pigs, camels, bats, cats, and other animals. Sometimes they ‘jump’ to humans and are transmissible among humans, creating what is known as a ‘spillover’ event.
Hundreds of coronavirus species are known but not all coronaviruses are human pathogens. Some cause disease in humans. Coronaviruses with the exotic names 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 cause common colds and various other respiratory ailments in humans. More famous recent coronaviruses are SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) which appeared on Earth in 2002 and disappeared by 2004. It infected 8437 and caused 813 deaths. In 2012 another coronavirus infection appeared known as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome). Virologists initially called the disease “2012 nCoV” meaning “novel coronavirus of 2012.” It resulted in roughly 2000 cases and caused about 600 deaths. It still rarely appears on Earth in some animals.
Now the world is confronted with the scourge of COVID-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019. After it was originally identified in China in late 2019 scientists named it SARS-CoV2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2.) While the disease is currently informally referenced as the ‘coronavirus,’ the moniker COVID-19 was proposed by WHO (World Health Organization), an agency of the United Nations, and has caught on in the public mind. The novel COVID-19 disease has supplanted the former “novel coronavirus of 2012” by a wide margin, probably because it is more deadly and of far greater importance.
COVID-19 is a novel, never-seen-before viral disease. The disease is caused by a virus mutation-an alteration or change in the genetic sequence of DNA or RNA of a less virulent virus which was not especially harmful. COVID-19 has proven extremely contagious. For some infected people, most of its effects are not especially harmful. For others, the disease is extremely harmful or even fatal. In our previous post we explained that viruses occupy a unique position in the world of biology. They are not truly living entities, but they have genetic DNA and RNA sequences more typical of living things. A genetic sequence is a chemical code “instruction book” governing the production of physical characteristics and function of living things. Some viruses promote normal health. Such viruses are benign, but harmful viruses adversely affect human health. Sadly, the COVID-19 virus is a harmful mutation.
Pastors and theologians have offered many timely commentaries on the current role of God as He observes humanity in the physical world He created. In our 3-8-20 post we characterized our planet as “significantly…a microbe world.” Most microbes are harmless or even helpful. We wonder how God perceives the current virus pandemic phenomenon. What is the mind of God for 2020? These questions cannot be answered to the full satisfaction of humanity. The mysteries contemplated may have a parallel in the questions and answers posed by the righteous and blameless Job and by the Lord Himself in the Old Testament Book of Job. Note especially The Lord’s comments in Ch. 38-41 and Job’s humble reply in Ch. 42.
We invite you to study additional pandemic COVID-19 science and faith issues with us in upcoming posts.
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.