Coronaviruses are round and surrounded by a halo of spiky proteins, giving them a resemblance to the sun, and thus given the name “corona.” These viruses spread through the air and are responsible for 10-30% of our common colds. There are so many genetically different coronaviruses, and that’s why you can get sick over and over–similar to why we get different flu strains every year–making it difficult to produce a vaccine to combat these.
We are able to produce a vaccine for a particular strain of the virus, and that’s why a vaccine is in the works for the rapidly-spreading coronavirus of 2019. (No vaccine is available as of March 3, 2020.)
The novel (new) coronavirus originating in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, is called SARS-CoV-2 (formerly 2019-nCoV).
This virus is similar to SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. The SARS-CoV outbreak of 2002 originated in China. MERS-CoV came from Saudi Arabia in 2012 and stayed mostly in the Middle East and South Korea.
Although SARS-CoV-2 contains “SARS,” it is sufficiently different from SARS-CoV of 2012 and considered a new human-infecting virus.
The disease this virus causes is called coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated (COVID-19).
Typically coronaviruses cause mild infections of the upper respiratory tract (common cold), but this new virus is different. SARS-CoV-2 is able to penetrate deeper into the airway and cause lung disease and pneumonia. This is why people, usually of immunocompromise/chronic illness, are more vulnerable to complications and even death from the novel virus.
Spread: Person-to-person by respiratory droplet (cough or sneeze) within six feet of each other.
Symptoms: Two-fourteen days post-exposure symptoms may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Many people have mild symptoms or none at all, but they are still infectious and are able to pass it to others without knowing. More cases have been reported in adults than in children.
Prevention: Use every day preventative measures such as handwashing and avoiding putting your hands on/in your mouth and nose.
Complications: Acute respiratory distress, irregular heartbeat, cardiovascular shock, severe muscle pain, fatigue, and heart damage/attack. There is no data at this time on the increased risk to pregnant women or the unborn child.
Where did this virus come from?
When scientists look for a virus’s source, they look at the genetic makeup of the virus. This virus has similarities that are known to coronaviruses in animals–particularly bats. The closest bat virus is not able to infect humans, to it is believed that there must be an intermediate animal that transmitted it to humans. That animal then transmitted it to a human host.
Mutations had to arise in the intermediate animal after it was infected with the batt virus in order to infect a human.
The culprit may have been a live animal in a market in Wuhan. Genetic analysis shows that the intermediate animal may be a pangolin. Thee genetic sequence of the pangolin coronavirus is 99% similar to what’s currently circulating in humans. This theory has yet to be confirmed.
Antiviral drug treatments, as well as a vaccine, are in the works. Please check my updates daily for current information on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19
- QUICK FACTS AND INTERESTING TIDBITS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS 2019 AND COVID-19
- Johns Hopkins Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases Tracker
- Bloomberg’s Mapping the Coronavirus Outbreak Across the World
- Worldometer for current U.S. case and death count
- CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) page
- WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak page
- NBC News live updates