What is a virus?
A virus is a piece of RNA or DNA, along with complicated groupings of molecules, like proteins, nucleic acids, lipids, and carbohydrates, wrapped in a protein coat. Viruses are extremely small: if a human hair was the size of a football field, a virus would be 4”, relatively. “There are more viruses in this world than there are cells” according to Slobain Duffy, virologist at Rutgers University. But only 6,828 virus species have been formally named by scientists. That makes for a hell of a lot of viruses. Apparently they are all through our bodies and most are benign.
Viruses are not alive, so they cannot die. However, the protein coat can be denatured (like egg white which is permanently changed in a heated frying pan), rendering it inactive. Viruses enter a cell and take over the replication machinery to make more copies of themselves, in addition to certain proteins. They then pass on to other cells, repeating the process.
One big problem with viruses is that they mutate at a very quick pace. RNA viruses (which corona viruses are), replicate without proofreading activity (like DNA viruses carry out), and as a result, errors in genetic coding occur. It is these errors that allow RNA viruses, such as influenza and HIV, to mutate rapidly, and make it difficult for vaccines and natural immunities to keep up. When you look at all the different viruses associated with people and many different animals, there is a lot of room for quick change in the viral world. That is why new influenza vaccines are made each year. The top 3-4 most likely choices of flu's coming out of Asia, are made into a vaccine which is offered to the public, to prevent the flu. Unfortunately, the guess is not always correct, and vaccines are sometimes ridiculously ineffective (like 80%). I am not a big fan of flu vaccines, but for different reasons (more later on this).
The Corona Virus Specifically
In addition to standard viral anatomy, the corona virus also apparently has a lipid, or fat, envelope (which is why it is so susceptible to soap). Washing thoroughly with soap breaks up the lipid envelop and renders the virus ineffective. It also has protein spikes on the surface that help it enter cells more easily. The Corona virus apparently strikes men more than women. Men contract it at 150% the rate of women.