Hiya, Poptropicans! As some of you may know, I’m now in college. Specifically, I’m working towards an Animal Science degree with a Pre-Vet concentration. By no means does this make me a biology or science expert, but I thought I’d share my thoughts about Virus Hunter Island! Of course, if there’s anything wrong or inaccurate, tell me! I used to (greatly) dislike this island so I never completed it, but recently I gave it another shot. 😉 Here’s the synopsis:
Somewhere in Poptropica, an unknown citizen harbors within his bloodstream a dangerous new virus. Your mission: locate Patient Zero, and eradicate the disease before it spreads. Prepare for a perilous journey to the most far-out place of all — inside the human body!
Now, besides the fact — which we all know by now — that there would be a quarantine of this person rather than a secret mission to find them, there are a few other tidbits that are interestingly misrepresented. Here’s one of the first thing the island teaches you:
“A virus uses your cell to reproduce.” This is 100% true! Viruses are what we call “obligate intracellular parasites.” I know, a fancy term. Basically, what it means is that a virus can’t survive without *you* and your body’s cells. This is why many scientists don’t consider it a living thing. It can’t survive on its own!
“It hides like a spy inside your body.” Well, sort of. If that was completely the case, our body would never be able to fight a virus on its own! It is true it can be hard to detect since it’s within body cells themselves, but that’s why we have an immune system! Specifically, our “adaptive immune response” is super important. You see, viruses have spikes and other characteristics that make them unique and identifiable by our immune system. Once our immune system sees that, well…it becomes a fight between the virus and our body. If successful, our body can produce memory cells that remember what the virus looks like forever!
You may be wondering… “If our body can remember viruses forever after seeing them, why do we ever get sick?” For some viruses, this is true! Once you get sick, you never get sick from them again (this is called solid immunity), which is the case for measles. Other viruses, however, can mutate, or change shape. It’s why you can get sick by the flu year after year – it changes shape often, so your body has to recognize it and fight it every time. Along with these changes in shape can come new symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.
After this clip, Dr. Lange mentions that this virus is super important because it’s a “super bug.” Uh, well…this is mostly false. “Super bug” is almost completely reserved for bacteria, another type of organism that can get you sick (most bacteria are actually beneficial, not harmful!). These “superbugs” are the bacteria that resist many antibiotics, which is very worrying. Viruses, on the other hand, are already inherently hard to treat. They can still become resistant to antivirals, but that’s not near as common as in bacteria, and it’s not the main problem.
Have you ever wondered why the doctor doesn’t usually prescribe you antiviral medication for a flu or a cold? This goes back to them being “obligate intracellular parasites.” They live inside your cells, which means they’re very hard to treat without, well, also killing your healthy cells. It’s possible, but there are very few antiviral medications, and they are usually expensive and reserved for people who have a hard time fighting viruses on their own, such as the elderly. Anyway, the main point is: viruses are not superbugs, and all viruses are hard to treat once you get them. Don’t panic, though! That’s why we have vaccines…
To be continued! It’s important to keep in mind that Poptropica is mainly a game aimed at kids, so they do have to play it up a bit to keep it interesting. Hopefully, though, this post was just as interesting for you to read as playing the island. 😉 If you want specifics about anything (I toned it down a bit to make it more understandable), just comment below and I’ll try to answer!
-Silver Wolf 🐺