Seeber’s Science column: the common cold

Posted on 26th January 2018

In the second of her fortnightly columns for the TES, Bedales Head of Sciences Emily Seeber explains how colds are spread around classrooms, why teachers are particularly vulnerable, and why schools are hotbeds for the transmission of disease.

The common cold is not a single virus she explains, it is a group of related viruses which live in the nose. “The cold tends to be transmitted when ‘the afflicted’ either cough or sneeze, and droplets of water containing live viruses are passed into the air. Anyone within a metre is likely to breathe in some of these water droplets and then become infected with the various different types of cold virus, which enter the healthy cells in the nasal passage. The viruses use different pathways, sometimes by latching on to receptors on the surface of the cell, or sometimes by being swallowed into an endosome because the cell thinks that the virus is food. Once the viruses fuse, they hijack the cell’s apparatus to produce another load of viruses, and the pattern repeats.”

Emily warns that students who have picked up the virus can be infectious for 24 hours before they experience symptoms….and teachers need to take radical measures to avoid infection.

The full article is available on the TES website (subscription may be required).

Readers are invited to submit Science related education questions to pose to Emily to Jon Severs at the TES:

TES | Emily Seeber