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3 ways to end a virus

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TEDEd Animation

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Viruses are wildly successful organisms. There are about 100 million times as many virus particles on Earth as there are stars in the observable universe. Even so, viruses can and do go extinct. So, what is the possibility of the virus that causes COVID-19 going extinct? Explore the three main ways viruses can be driven to extinction.

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In the realm of public health, we frequently hear about virus eradication — a term defined by the Center for Disease Control as "permanent reduction to zero of the worldwide incidence of infection caused by a specific agent as a result of deliberate efforts." Extinction, on the other hand, occurs when a virus no longer exists in nature at all a status that is difficult to scientifically confirm considering the tendency for viruses to hide out in animal reservoirs until the next “spillover event.”

 Certain strains of the flu came to exist in this gray area of possible extinction after COVID-19 safety measures abruptly halted their spread (and potentially wiped them off the face of the Earth). The pandemic has also aptly demonstrated how different variants of a virus compete for supremacy and can cause one another’s extinction (if you’re interested in seeing the ebb and flow of different SARS-CoV-2 variants throughout the pandemic, check out the collection of infographics on CoVariants.org). Man-made vaccines, meanwhile, are arguably the most important route to virus extinction, and a universal coronavirus vaccine is top of mind for many in the scientific community. Read more here about the difficulties that lay ahead for that medical milestone. 

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Director Anton Bogaty
  • Script Writer George Zaidan
  • Narrator George Zaidan
  • Sound Designer Nikola Radivojevic
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Producer Alexandra Zubak
  • Associate Producer Sazia Afrin
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Editorial Producer George Zaidan
  • Expert Consultant Eddie Holmes

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