COVID-19 is the official name of the disease caused by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Coronaviruses, or CoVs, are among the largest class of viruses that belong to the order Nidovirales, which includes the Roniviridae, Arteriviridae, and Coronaviridae family of viruses. The Coronaviridae family is further divided into four types of viruses: the delta, gamma, beta, and alpha coronaviruses. Its name comes from the Latin word “corona,” due to the club-like spikes that project from the surface, reminiscent of a solar corona.
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A coronavirus is zoonotic, which means that it’s spread between humans and animals. Coronaviruses may cause a wide variety of illnesses in birds and mammals, ranging from upper respiratory infection in chickens and intestinal infections in pigs and cows to life-threatening respiratory infections in humans.
Before 2002, it was thought that coronaviruses cause only self-limiting and mild infections of the respiratory tract in human beings. Two of the coronaviruses considered during this time were beta-coronaviruses, and the other two were alpha-coronaviruses. These coronaviruses are endemic (spread in certain geographic areas) and cause about 15 to 30 percent of the infections of the respiratory tract each year in the areas they’re endemic to.
The outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that happened in China during 2002–2003 was caused by the SARS coronavirus; a beta coronavirus. At the time, this outbreak was among the most severe illnesses that had occurred due to a coronavirus — more than 8,000 people had the illness. During this epidemic, researchers obtained viruses that were closely related to the SARS coronavirus from various exotic animals, such as raccoon dogs and Himalayan palm civets. But it’s generally accepted that the SARS coronavirus was first found in bats.
A coronavirus is zoonotic, which means that it’s spread between humans and animals.
The SARS coronavirus outbreak was controlled in the year 2003, and since 2004 there haven’t been any known cases of SARS reported anywhere in the world. After that, a new human coronavirus appeared in 2012 in the Middle East. This was called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, which was another beta coronavirus. It caused a succession of highly pathogenic infections of the respiratory tract in the Middle East. During the initial stages of the outbreak, the illness was severe in many cases. But the outbreak didn’t accelerate in 2013, with only a few cases occurring throughout the year.
Detailed investigations found that MERS coronavirus was passed from dromedary camels to human beings, and SARS coronavirus passed from civet cats to human beings. Both camels and civet cats were acting as intermediate hosts and transmitted the coronavirus to humans from bats.
The World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted on December 31, 2019, about a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China (located in Hubei Province in central China). The virus causing the illness wasn’t similar to any other existing viruses. A week later, on January 7, Chinese authorities declared that a new virus from the family of coronaviruses was the cause and officially named SARS-CoV-2.
- On January 12, 2020, China reported the genetic sequencing of the new coronavirus, which other countries can use to develop specific or distinct diagnostic kits.
- On January 13, 2020, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health documented the first case of a new coronavirus (lab-confirmed), which originated in Wuhan, China.
- Subsequently, the virus was detected in other countries and WHO, and local health authorities initiated measures to prevent its spread.
- On March 11, 2020, WHO characterizes COVID-19 as a pandemic virus, meaning that the epidemy is spread over a large area like an entire country, continent, or the whole world.
According to current estimates, the incubation period of coronavirus ranges from 2–14 days, and as more information about the virus becomes available, the experts will refine these estimates.
Reported illnesses in established SARS-CoV-2 infections range from infected individuals who have very few to no COVID-19 symptoms to individuals who are seriously ill.
Common signs that indicate an infection with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) are respiratory symptoms, cough, fever, breathing difficulties, and shortness of breath.
Common COVID-19 symptoms include cough, fever, breathing difficulties, and shortness of breath. In most cases, people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, while 16 percent of infected patients progress to severe disease. In severe cases, coronavirus infection may cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and respiratory distress syndrome. Unfortunately, there were lethal outcomes registered, and a number of people died from the disease’s complications. Also, older people and people with severe underlying health conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes seem to be at higher risk of developing COVID-19.
There are no signs or symptoms specific to coronavirus disease. Health care experts can’t differentiate COVID-19 from other viruses that cause acute respiratory illness without testing using a distinct diagnostic kit. Luckily, due to the fast reaction of medical health care authorities, these kits are now available to the public. So if you suspect you might be infected and want to get tested, contact your health provider.
By February 5, 2020, it has been established that the virus can spread from person-to-person not only in Wuhan, China, but also in other areas in China, Australia, Germany, Thailand, and many other countries around the world. There isn’t enough existing information regarding the epidemiology of the coronavirus, so experts can’t draw definite conclusions about the origin of the first case, all of the clinical symptoms, or the intensity of person-to-person transmission.
When the spread of SARS and MERS viruses occurred from person-to-person it happened largely by way of respiratory droplets (tiny drops that form when a person sneezes or coughs). Currently, SARS-CoV-2 is suspected to have the same mechanism of transmission.
Initially, many people in Wuhan, China, who were infected with coronavirus, reported having links to an animal and seafood market, which seemed to indicate the virus spread from animals to humans. But a large number of people affected by the virus report that they hadn’t been to any animal and seafood markets, which would indicate that the virus is also spreading from person to person. Chinese officials have stated that person-to-person transmission of the virus is taking place in China.
If you are not living in locations where SARS-CoV-2 spread has been reported, have not travelled from an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or haven’t had contact with an infected person, the risk of getting SARS-CoV-2 is rather low. However, if you live in the area where the ongoing spread of SARS-CoV-2 has been reported, you need to take personal precautions recommended by WHO and your local health authorities.
Currently, no coronavirus vaccine exists for COVID-19. However, the development and implementation process for a vaccine can be significantly accelerated under certain outbreak conditions.
According to the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO, following the below-mentioned respiratory and hand hygiene practices may reduce transmission of, and exposure to, various illnesses, including COVID-19:
- Clean your hands frequently using water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitizer. Make sure to wash your hands at least for 20 seconds.
- Don’t touch your mouth, eyes, or nose with dirty or unwashed hands.
- Avoid contact with sick people (or people who have a cough and fever).
- While sneezing or coughing, cover your nose and mouth using a tissue, throw it away as soon as possible, and wash your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, turn away from other people, and sneeze into your sleeve or the crook of your arm.
- Disinfect and clean surfaces and objects that you touch frequently, like door handles or tables.
- If you develop a fever, difficulty breathing, and cough seek early medical care and tell your doctor about your travel history.
- While visiting animal and seafood markets in regions that are currently experiencing instances of new coronavirus, avoid direct contact with living animals and surfaces contaminated by animals.
- Avoid consumption of undercooked or raw animal products, like meat, seafood, or eggs.
- Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.
The CDC recommends avoiding unnecessary travel to China. Due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Chinese officials have discontinued all transport out of and within Wuhan and various other cities in the Hubei province. If it’s very essential to travel to China, take the following precautions:
- Avoid contact with ill or sick individuals.
- Discuss your travel plans to China with your health care provider.
- Avoid contact with animals (dead or alive), animal and seafood markets, and animal products (for instance; uncooked meat).
- Clean your hands frequently using water and soap or hand sanitizer (alcohol-based).
If you have visited China during the last two weeks and you experience symptoms of fever, difficulty breathing, or cough, do the following:
- Seek immediate medical care and tell the doctor’s office about your symptoms and recent travel beforehand.
- Avoid contact with other people.
- Avoid traveling while sick.
- Clean your hands frequently.
- Cover your nose and mouth while sneezing or coughing using a tissue or your sleeve.
Doctors aren’t yet administering any specific or distinct antiviral treatment for the new coronavirus infection. People who have COVID-19 will be taken into observation and get supportive care to relieve the symptoms of coronavirus and prevent complications. In severe cases of COVID-19, vital organ function should be supported as a part of the treatment. If you think that you may have been exposed to the virus, you must contact your physician immediately.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can cause respiratory infections in humans. Though the majority of these infections aren’t serious, certain kinds of coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, may cause quite severe and even life-threatening infections. A number of pneumonia cases have been reported in Wuhan, China, as of December 31, 2019, and the cause was found to be a new coronavirus.
The virus spreads from person to person, and there currently isn’t a vaccine to prevent it. Health care experts recommend standard preventive measures, including hand washing, respiratory hygiene, and avoiding contact with sick people. Currently, there is no specific treatment for COVID-19. Supportive care is available to relieve symptoms and prevent complications.