What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus that can cause disease in animals and humans. Viruses break into the cells in their host and use them to reproduce and disrupt the normal functions of the body. Corona viruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, meaning crown, because they are encased in a pointed shell resembling a royal crown.
Wuhan’s corona virus is one that has never been seen before. It has been called SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed about one in 50 patients since the December outbreak, is a “ sister ” of the SARS disease that affected China in 2002, and was therefore named.
The disease causing the virus is called COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr. Helena Maier of the Pirbright Institute said, “Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide variety of different species, including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats, and wildlife.
Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild cold, but two new coronaviruses have appeared since 2002 that can infect humans and lead to more serious illness (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
“Coronaviruses have been known to occasionally jump from one species to another, and that has happened with SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known. ‘
The first cases in humans were reported publicly from the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is home to approximately 11 million people, after doctors first reported infections publicly on December 31.
On January 8, 59 suspected cases were reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests have been developed for the new virus and recorded cases have begun to rise.
The first person died that week, and on January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Where does the virus come from?
Scientists say the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses are generally from animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to come from civets and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people who visited or worked at a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed for research.
Although the market is officially a fish market, other dead and live animals were sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic makeup virus samples found in patients in China are 96 percent identical to a corona virus found in bats.
However, there were not many bats on the market, so scientists say it was likely that there was an animal that acted as an intermediary and contracted it from a bat before transferring it to a human. What kind of animal this was has not yet been confirmed.
Dr. Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved in the study, but said, “The discovery certainly places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
“We still don’t know if any other species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus and possibly even market it, or which species could be the host.”
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so concerned about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it seems to be spreading rapidly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 people in an outbreak in Asia in 2003 in that it is a type of coronavirus that infects people’s lungs. However, it is less deadly than SARS, killing about one in ten people, compared to about one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another cause for concern is that no one is immune to the virus because they have never encountered it before. This means it can potentially do more damage than viruses we often encounter, such as the flu or a cold.
Professor Peter Horby, a professor at Oxford University, said in a briefing in January: “New viruses can be spread through the population much faster than viruses that are constantly circulating because we have no immunity to them.
Most seasonal flu viruses have a death rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we are talking about a virus where we do not fully understand the severity spectrum, but it is possible that the mortality rate can reach up to two percent. ‘
If the mortality rate is really two percent, it means that two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
“My feeling is that it is lower,” added Dr. Horby ready. “We probably miss this iceberg of milder cases. But that is the current circumstance we are in.
“The two percent mortality rate is comparable to the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, so it’s a major problem worldwide.”
How does the virus spread?
The disease can spread between people through coughs and sneezes, making it a highly contagious infection. And it can also spread before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, which is why close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky. It can also live on surfaces, such as plastic and steel, for up to 72 hours, meaning people can catch it by touching contaminated surfaces.
Originally, people were thought to be catching a live animal market in the city of Wuhan. But soon, cases began to pop up in people who had never been there, causing doctors to realize it was spreading from person to person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has contracted the COVID-19 virus, it may take two to 14 days or even longer for them to show symptoms, but they can still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do get sick, the typical symptoms are a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover without any problems and many will not need medical attention at all.
In a small group of patients, who appear to be predominantly elderly or those with long-term illnesses, this can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the lining of the lungs swells and fills with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe, and if left untreated it can kill and choke people.
Figures indicate that young children do not appear to be particularly severely affected by the virus, which they believe is special given their susceptibility to the flu, but it is not clear why.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of approximately 19 virus strains and released them to experts around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests, and possibly look into the treatment of the disease they cause.
Research has shown that the coronavirus has not changed much – change is known as mutation – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus changed and adapted as it spread through humans.
This means that efforts to study the virus and to possibly control it can be made even more difficult because the virus can look different every time scientists analyze it.
More research may reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people and then changed and spread from them, or whether different versions of the virus come from animals that developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has a death rate of about two percent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish flu outbreak that killed about 50 million people in 1918.
Since the outbreak began, experts have disputed whether the actual number of people infected is significantly higher than the official number of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never realize they are sick unless they are tested, so only the more serious cases are discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it actually is.
However, a government survey in China found that there was no reason to believe this to be true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures showed only the tip of the iceberg, and that the recording seemed accurate, Stat news reported.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it turns out to be difficult to contain.
Antibiotics don’t work against viruses, so there is none. Antivirals can work, but the process of understanding a virus and then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
A vaccine for the coronavirus does not yet exist and it is unlikely that a vaccine will be developed in time to assist in this outbreak for similar reasons as above.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health and Baylor University in Waco, Texas say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this can take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical technology.
Governments and health authorities are currently working to fight the virus and care for patients who are sick and prevent them from infecting other people.
People who contract the disease are quarantined in hospitals where their symptoms can be treated and they are away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are introducing screening measures, such as having doctors on the spot, measuring people’s temperature to check fever, and using thermal screening to identify those who may be sick (infection causes elevated temperature) .
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so patients at an airport are unlikely to be noticed.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak was declared a pandemic on March 11. A pandemic is defined by the World Health Organization as the “worldwide spread of a new disease.”
Earlier, the UN agency said that most cases outside Hubei were “overflow” from the epicenter, so the disease didn’t really spread actively around the world.