Reduce Your Chances of Getting Sick, Reduce Your Viral Load

Reduce Your Chances of Getting Sick, Reduce Your Viral Load

Written by Mrs Jocelyn Latif, Teacher of Biology 


While the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is changing the way we live and learn, you may be wondering why some people are more sick than others, regardless of age.   

This is to do with ‘Viral Load’. Viral Load is the measure of how many virus particles you have been exposed to. If you are exposed to a few particles, say 5, this small amount will multiply slowly in your body and the amount of virus you have steadily builds up.  During this time your amazing immune system will recognise the virus as foreign to your body and will then get to work to stop it. So, before the virus has time to multiply too much, your immune system is already attacking it. 

For someone exposed to a high amount of coronavirus, for example a doctor or nurse working on a ward treating patients with the virus, they might be exposed to 100,000 particles at one time. This allows the virus to multiply much faster as they have a high viral load very fast.  The immune system therefore doesn’t have time to prepare before they become very ill. 

Older people get it worse because their immune systems are slower to recognise the virus as foreign and therefore are slower to attack the virus. 

It has never been more important than now to keep social distancing.  It’s not only about staying 2m part, it is also about how long you are exposed to the virus. The longer the time you spend with someone with the virus, the greater the chances of being infected by it. It is all about the amount of virus particles you are exposed to; the more virus particles you are exposed to, the sicker you will be.  

I have written this article having taken advice from my cousin, an NHS consultant with a PhD in Immunology, my GP brother and of course, using my own knowledge of immunology as a biology teacher. So my advice to you all is to stay safe, stay home and keep working hard towards your science iGCSEs. You never know when you might need them! 


27 March 2020
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