The current pandemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The name of the virus and the name of the disease are often different. For instance, HIV causes AIDS and rubeola causes measles. In this case, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The number 19 is merely due to its discovery in 2019. It was named SARS-CoV-2 because it is genetically related to the virus (also a coronavirus) responsible for the 2003 SARS outbreak. The two viruses are related but different.
Coronaviruses (CoV) is a whole family of viruses, not just the one causing the current pandemic. Remember MERS-Cov? Or SARS-CoV? Yeah, same family of viruses. The name is derived from the Latin word corona, meaning crown or wreath. It was named so due to its appearance under an electron microscope.
This family of viruses is zoonotic, which means they are transmitted or transferred, between humans and animals. SARS-CoV-2 was previously unidentified in humans until December 2019. Other than coming out of the Wuhan Province in China, the origin of this particular virus is still unknown, but several theories have been circulated. I won’t get into those here. Several common human coronaviruses (229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1) commonly circulate through the world population causing a simple cold.
The disease itself will manifest much like any other respiratory infection. Starting with fever and general aches in mild cases, it can lead to pneumonia and even death, in moderate and severe cases, respectively. Mortality is more likely in individuals over 80 years of age (>20%*) or have other underlying conditions: cardiovascular disease (13%*), diabetes (9%*), chronic respiratory disease (8%*), cancer (7.5%*).1
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.2 The current consensus is that the virus is spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. The droplets originate when an infected person coughs or sneezes and can land in the mouth or nasal cavity or be inhaled by people nearby. There are several steps we can take to limit exposure and spread of this virus.
Aside from the above recommendations suggested by the W.H.O., NHS, and UK Government, additional steps can be taken to boost and support your immune system.
The most important thing to remember is not to panic. This is not some great apocalypse. Keep calm and follow the instructions given by your healthcare providers. You do NOT need to stockpile toilet roll, pasta, or hand sanitizer (and DON’T steal masks from hospitals!). If we work together as a community the healthcare system will be able to help those in need.
1. (World Health Organization (WHO) estimated mortality rates based on a subset of the total reported cases in China by 9 March 2020.
3. Disinfect with a bleach solution (20mL of bleach per 1L of water), alcohol solution (at least 70%), or other strong household disinfectants.
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