Viral load simply means the amount of virus you are loaded with when exposed to that virus (amazing, but true).
And there’s been a ton of speculation that one of the factors that may determine how sick some people get with COVID-19 is how much virus they get exposed to on their first exposure to infective virus.
Makes sense, right?
If you only breathe in a bit of virus from some spreader who has coughed in your face, or breathed on you, or whatever he or she did to make you sick with what they’re transmitting, then your body might still mount its usual strong defense against infection.
But because there’s so little virus in you, your immediate natural defense would overwhelm the virus but yet it would still leave behind its standard anti-viral measures to guard against that virus should you be exposed again.
It’s why masks may be so useful – in some instances, they may let a bit of virus through, enough to get your antibodies working, and thus lower your risk of full-blown infection.
But it’s been hard to prove anything about vital load.
Until this paper, that is, from the Lancet.
To quote the authors’ interpretation: The viral load of index cases was a leading driver of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. The risk of symptomatic COVID-19 was strongly associated with the viral load of contacts at baseline.
Wear your mask.