This week, I read an article about new discoveries made about viruses in space. In February, a review study came out about the potential risk that viruses might pose to astronauts when they travel to space. The article mentioned how on the Apollo 7 mission one astronaut seemed to have caught a cold and the others soon caught it too. Because there is no gravity in space, the mucus that filled their nose/throats became so uncomfortable that the astronauts refused to wear their helmets when they landed. They were also terrified that the mucus/congestion could be deadly when the pressure changed as they landed.
While these astronauts came out relatively unscathed, it prompted a new wave of research on viruses in outer space. Recently, the international space station was swabbed for viruses, and it was found that there were lots of viruses such as herpesviruses and papillomaviruses. They also studied a concept called reactivated viruses, whereby viruses that have laid dormant in the body for years can suddenly re-activate, typically due to changes in the environment. When an astronaut goes to space, their external environment changes drastically in terms of temperature, pressure, gravity, etc. Scientists believe that this could cause dormant viruses to begin replicating again. One virus that poses a significant threat is chickenpox, because if someone had chickenpox as a kid and then the chickenpox gets reactivated when they are in space, it can turn into shingles, which is debilitating and very painful. Now, astronauts are required to quarantine several weeks prior to going into space to ensure that they are not sick.