Monday, October 25, 2021

Episode 600 (10-25-21): The Wide Reach of Viruses, Including Through Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:50).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-22-21.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 25, 2021.  This episode is part of a series this fall about water connections to the human body and human biology.  We start this week with three mystery sounds, all related to a very numerous group of disease-causing, or pathogenic, microbes that have enormous impacts on human health.  Have a listen for about 20 seconds, and see if know this microbial group.  And here’s a hint: big hits on social media are said to spread like this group.

SOUNDS – ~19 sec

If you guessed viruses, you’re right!  You heard a person coughing due to a viral disease; handwashing, an important method of reducing viral transmission; and a spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol, an effective disinfectant against many kinds of viruses.  With attention focused this fall both on the COVID-19 coronavirus and the annual influenza virus season, we explore in this episode some basic information about viruses and some viral connections to water.  Here are 10 key points about viruses.

1.  Viruses are one of four groups of microbes responsible for human disease, along with bacteria, fungi, and protozoa, which are single-celled animals.  As a group, viruses are the smallest of these microbes, although some are larger than some bacteria.

2.  Viruses aren’t made up of cells, but instead exist as particles composed primarily of molecules of protein and nucleic acids, that is, DNA or RNA.  They require a cellular host for reproduction, called replication. 

3.  Viruses are more abundant than all of the cellular-based living things on earth.

4.  All living things are infected by viruses. 

5.  Viruses don’t always cause disease in infected hosts, but many kinds do cause significant diseases in humans, other animals, and plants.

6.  Viral disease can result from viruses taking over or inhibiting their host’s cellular biochemical processes, or by cell destruction as new virus particles exit cells after replication. 

7.  Depending on their type, viruses can be spread through air, in water, from surfaces, by animal vectors, or through exchange of blood or other body substances.

8.  Water-related spread of viruses can occur through water contaminated with human waste, and through animal vectors connected to water, particularly mosquitoes. 

9.  Significant human diseases from water-borne viruses include intestinal disease, particularly diarrhea; hepatitis, or liver inflammation; inflammations of the brain, spinal cord, or heart; and possibly cancer.  Viral diseases spread by mosquitoes include Yellow Fever, Dengue, West Nile, and others.

And last, but not least, handwashing with clean water and soap is important for reducing the spread of viruses through objects and surfaces—collectively called fomites—with which humans come into contact.

Thanks to user n__audioman for making the coughing sound available for public use.  Here’s hoping we all hear less of that sound and more of the handwashing and other preventative measures that keep viruses—water-borne and otherwise—somewhat at bay.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close this show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Thanks to Dr. Sally Paulson, Virginia Tech Department of Entomology, for her help with this article.

The coughing sound was recorded by user n__audioman (dated December 14, 2015), and made available for public use by, online at, under the Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0  For more information on Creative Commons licenses, please see; information on the Attribution License specifically is online at

The handwashing and alcohol spraying sounds were recorded by Virginia Water Radio on October 21, 2021. 

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


Female Aedes japonicus mosquito (also known as Ochlerotatus japonicas), photographed from a colony at Notre Dame University.  Photo by Frank Collins, accessed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Image Library, online at; specific URL for this photo was, as of 10-25-21.  According to CDC caption for this photo, this Asian mosquito, first collected in the United States in New York and New Jersey in 1998, is a suspected transmitter for West Nile virus.

“Wash Your Hands in 24 Languages” poster from the Minnesota Department of Health, online at


Used for Audio

John B. Carter and Venetia A. Saunders, Virology: Principles and Applications, Second Edition, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester, United Kingdom, 2013.

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Tracking the COVID-19 Economy’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships,” updated October 13, 2021, online at

Dorothy H. Crawford, Viruses: A Very Short Introduction, Second Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, United Kingdom, 2018.

Aimee M. Gall et al., “Waterborne Viruses: A Barrier to Safe Drinking Water,” PLOS Pathogens Vol. 11, No. 6 (June 25, 2015), online at

Johns Hopkins University & Medicine/Coronavirus Resource Center, “Global Map,” online at

Microbiology Society, “Microbes and Disease,” online at

Minnesota Department of Health, “Waterborne Illness,” online at

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Global economic recovery continues but remains uneven, says OECD,” News Release, September 21, 2021.

University of New Hampshire/Casey School of Public Policy, “COVID-19 Economic Crisis: By State,” by Michael Ettlinger and Jordan Hensley, October 1, 2021, online at

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Chemical Disinfectants,” online at

U.S. CDC, “Mosquito-Borne Diseases,” online at 

U.S. CDC, Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice, Third Edition: An Introduction to Applied Epidemiology and Biostatistics, November 2011, “Glossary,” online at

U.S. CDC, “Water-related Diseases and Contaminants in Public Water Systems,” online at

Virginia Department of Health, “Waterborne Hazards Control Programs,” online at

Water Quality Association, “Bacteria and Virus Issues,” online at

World Health Organization (WHO), “Waterborne Pathogens and Their Significance in Water Supplies” (table), online (as a PDF) at 

WHO, “Emerging Issues in Water and Infectious Disease,” 2003, online (as a PDF) at

WHO, “Microbial Fact Sheets,” online (as a PDF) at 

For More Information about Water and the Human Body

Isabel Lorenzo et al., “The Role of Water Homeostasis in Muscle Function and Frailty: A Review,” Nutrients, Vol. 11, No. 8 (August 2019, accessed online at (subscription may be required for access).

Mayo Clinic Health System, “Water: Essential to your body,” online at

U.S. Geological Survey, “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body,”


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Science” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on connections of water to human biology.  Please note that some of these episodes are being redone in fall 2021; in those cases, the respective links below will have information on the updated episodes. 

Overview of water’s roles in the body – Episode 592, 8-30-21.
Disease: COVID-19 – Episode 517, 3-23-20 and Episode 519, 4-6-20.
Disease: influenza – Episode 598, 10-11-21.
Circulatory system connections to water – Episode 593, 9-6-21.
Muscular system connections to water – Episode 596, 9-27-21,
Neurological system connections to water –
Episode 594, 9-13-21.
Skeleton system connections to water – Episode 595, 9-20-21.
Water intake and exercise – Episode 466, 4-1-19.
Water thermodynamics –
Episode 195, 1-6-14.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2018 Science SOLs 

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes

4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grade 6

6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment, including that water is important for agriculture, power generation, and public health.
6.9 – Humans impact the environment and individuals can influence public policy decisions related to energy and the environment, including that major health and safety issues are associated with air and water quality,

Life Science
LS.2 – All living things are composed of one or more cells that support life processes, as described by the cell theory, including that cell structure and organelles support life processes.
LS.3     – There are levels of structural organization in living things, including that similar characteristics determine the classification of organisms.
LS.10 – Organisms reproduce and transmit genetic information to new generations.

BIO.4 – Bacteria and viruses have an effect on living systems.

2015 Social Studies SOLs

United States History: 1865-to-Present Course
USII.9 – Domestic and international issues during the second half of the 20th Century and the early 21st Century.

Civics and Economics Course
CE.10 – Public policy at local, state, and national levels.

World Geography Course
WG.2 – How selected physical and ecological processes shape the Earth’s surface, including climate, weather, and how humans influence their environment and are influenced by it.

Virginia and United States History Course
VUS.14 – Political and social conditions in the 21st Century.

Government Course
GOVT.9 – Public policy process at local, state, and national levels.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15
– on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15
– on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16
– on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16
– on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 403, 1-15-18
– on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18
– on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 406, 2-5-18
– on ice on rivers, for middle school.
Episode 407, 2-12-18
– on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19
– on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20
– on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20
– on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:50).