From Virus to Protection #5: Does it matter how much virus gets inside your body?
A blog series on SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and how spread can be eliminated.
This blog series was inspired by the many questions people ask on this topic (see our FAQ links for more)
Does how much COVID-19 get in you matter? Yes. A low dose might be good for you, and a large dose may kill you. It's almost common sense.
The idea that a lower dose of virus means less severe illness is a well-worn idea in medicine, but not commonly known.
A study published in 2015 gave healthy volunteers varying doses of a flu virus; those who got higher doses got sicker, with more coughing and shortness of breath.
How Much is Too Much?
Viral load is the amount of a virus that enters the body during an exposure event.
It’s important to understand the topic of viral load. When someone gets a virus in them, if it’s not too much for the immune system to handle with finesse, there may often be no symptoms to notice. But when a large amount of the virus comes in at the same time, it may overwhelm the immune system, doing great damage to the body during the battle, possibly ending in death. Breathing in a small amount of virus may lead to no disease or a more mild infection. But inhaling a huge volume of virus particles can result in serious disease or death.
People who have severe complications and may die from a large load of virus are usually the ones who have “underlying conditions”. Whether a light load with no symptoms or a heavy load, recovering from the infection results in a level of immunity to that virus, and may prepare them for a better defense if they are exposed again. For more on this, see the LA Times article where Dr. Monica Gandhi goes into much detail.
"Whether a light load with no symptoms or a heavy load, recovering from the infection results in a level of immunity to that virus, and may prepare them for a better defense if they are exposed again."
Wearing our masks properly will reduce viral loads of exposure significantly. If a received viral load is not too much for the wearer’s immune system, it may work to build up the wearer’s immune system, preparing it for a future exposure, and cause them to have a more moderate, or no-symptom experience.
CAUTION: Just knowing that a small viral load exposure might be beneficial is not enough to decide it is safe. A person’s immune response system is VERY COMPLEX. Mental and spiritual factors can play a big role in how the immune system works. Underlying health conditions and disease history can be a loud indicator of how healthy a person’s immune system is. Also, those who make a practice of tempting fate are eventually sorry and repentant. No-one should ever try to ‘game the system’ by trying to get immunity on purpose with a live virus using our masks.
Understanding how stop spreading infection requires learning how to keep our bodily fluids to ourselves. The better our tools and behavior are to this end, the more we will limit the spread.
Disclaimer: We make no claim that these teachings are up-to-date. Researched by a scientist, they are current understanding, to the best of our knowledge. Consult medical professionals before making medical decisions for yourself or others, just to be sure. Be safe, be careful. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is a serious enemy that can kill.
The next blog discusses: The Basics of Protection from SARS-CoV-2 Infection.