What is Coronavirus? Everything that You Should Know

Dr Sukanya Goswami
Sukanya has done BDS. She is a dentist, a blogger, an extrovert, and a travel enthusiast. She is also a spiritual believer. When she is not working, you can find her reading books.

Coronavirus has become the deadliest name worldwide. It is a common virus among birds and mammals. However, with the recent breakout, coronavirus has become a prime cause of infection and death among humans. Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, derives the name from its spiky structure that resembles the projections on a crown. It first appeared in China in December 2019 and quickly spread worldwide from person to person.

There are multiple types of coronavirus known scientifically. However, only seven types of coronavirus have been found to infect humans. It is a highly contagious virus that doesn’t have a cure or preventive vaccine yet. Today’s article will give you an insight into the types and symptoms of coronavirus. Furthermore, we will discuss the preventive ways to stay protected from this contagious virus.

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What is coronavirus?

Coronavirus is a newly discovered virus that is known to affect the respiratory system of humans. It typically consists of multiple viruses that cause mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses, for example, common cold and flu.

Coronavirus is highly contagious and transmits through respiratory droplets from the infected person if they don’t cover their mouth and nose while sneezing. In another scenario, an infected person who may cover his mouth while sneezing can transmit corona by shaking hands with other people. Other modes of coronavirus spread are given below –

  • Through pregnant mothers or breastfeeding – although there is no clear evidence on the spread of coronavirus through this mode, the doctors advice mothers to maintain a distance from the newborns. Moreover, they must wear a mask while breastfeeding.
  • Through contaminated objects, such as doorknobs, handles, metal surfaces that have been touched by an infected person.

What is the origin of coronavirus?

Typically, coronavirus is considered as zoonotic viruses that mainly affect animals such as the pig, camel, cats, and bats. In sporadic instances, they jump from one species to another through direct or indirect contact. In the recent outbreak, the spread of COVID-19 has been linked to spreading from wildlife farming done exclusively in China.

What are the types of coronavirus that can infect humans?

There is a wide range of coronavirus that circulate among animals. However, only seven strains of coronavirus have known to cause human diseases. Four of them are mild, and three of them can have dangerous effects on the health of humans. (1) The four common human coronaviruses with mild symptoms are –

  • 229E
  • NL63 (2)
  • OC43
  • HKU1

Usually, people who are infected with the viruses mentioned above recover on their own. The three deadly coronaviruses that cause serious illness in humans are –

SARS-CoV

Also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), this virus was one of the first deadliest coronaviruses that affected humans in November 2002 in southern China. According to the WHO, this virus may have originated from the bats and transmitted to the humans who eat wild animals. (3)

SARS caused the 2002-2003 epidemic, where more than 8000 people in almost 26 countries around the world were infected. Currently, there is no reported case of SARS transmission in the world. However, the re-emergence of this virus can be a significant threat to humankind. (4)

pandemics in recent history infographic

SARS-CoV 2

Popularly known as COVID-19 has caused the recent outbreak in Wuhan, China, since December 2019. The spread of this virus is strongly linked to a market in Wuhan that sells seafood and poultry, which confirms the animal origin of COVID-19. However, there are still studies going on to locate its source.

SARS-CoV 2 has now spread across the world and has infected millions of people.

MERS-CoV

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, as the name suggests, emerged for the first time in Saudi Arabia around September 2012. The primary source of transmission was a camel that had contracted the virus. Usually, close contact with the infected source was the prime route of transmission. (5)

MERS affected around 2400 people in 27 countries worldwide. However, the majority of the cases had occurred in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, MERS re-emerged in 2015, affecting 186 people I south Korea.

Although there is no evidence of MERS in many countries today, the health authorities continue to monitor MERS cases around the world.

What are the key symptoms of coronavirus?

The symptoms of coronavirus often resemble those of a common cold or flu –

These are typically the symptoms of the upper respiratory tract. The Center for Disease Control has declared that coronavirus rarely causes complications of the lower respiratory tract, such as pneumonia. It has also revealed that people with weak immune systems are more susceptible to get infected with coronavirus such as –

  • Newborns and infants
  • Older adults (7)
  • Adults with systemic illness such as diabetes and heart conditions

Is there a treatment for coronavirus?

There are currently no specific medical treatments for COVID-19. It is being treated with antivirals and antibiotics, just like the treatment followed for upper respiratory tract infections. Moreover, there is no vaccine to prevent the disease among healthy people. Research is ongoing to develop a cure and a vaccine against this virus.

How to stay protected from coronavirus?

The best way to stay protected from COVID-19 is by doing the following –

  • Maintain distance from every person around you. Stay at least 6 feet (1.83 meters) away from the people around you.
  • An even better solution is self-isolation – stay home and avoid being exposed to the virus. (8)
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with antiseptic soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially when you’ve been in a public area
  • You can also use an alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% of alcohol content to wash your hands (9)
  • Do not touch your nose, face, or mouth as the virus tends to stay alive on surfaces that may be contacted by your sides. Touching your face yees, or nose can transmit the virus into your body.
  • Stay updated with the current preventive instructions from public health officials.

Take away message

COVID-19 is one of the deadliest types of coronavirus that has now become a worldwide pandemic disease. It usually affects the upper respiratory tract and causes symptoms similar to a common cold or flu such as dry cough, fever, headache, and nasal congestion.

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Typically, COVID-19 transmits from respiratory droplets from the infected person. Moreover, it can also be caused by infection spread from contaminated surfaces. SARS-CoV-2 is the prime type of coronavirus that was first reported in China in December 2019.

Since its outbreak, it has affected millions of people worldwide. There is currently no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. However, you can stay protected from the effects of COVID-19 by following the preventive measures.  Moreover, stay updated with the current news about coronavirus spread.

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