Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals including humans. They are associated with the common cold, pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and can also affect the gut. A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in the nose, sinuses or upper throat. It has killed about 858 people from ‘Middle East Respiratory Syndrome’, a disease caused by this virus which first appeared in 2012 in Saudi Arabia and in other countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe. In April 2014 it affected two persons in America too. In May 2015 there was an outbreak of MERS in Korea which was the biggest outbreak outside of the Arabian Peninsula. In 2003, 774 people died from a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak. But then in 2020 after a December outbreak in China, the World Health Organization identified a new type, 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). A coronavirus causes upper respiratory infection symptoms like a stuffy nose, cough and sore throat. It can be treated by rest and over-the-counter medication. Coronavirus can also cause middle-ear infections in children. A coronavirus was isolated in 1937 from an infectious bronchitis virus in birds that has the ability to damage poultry stocks. Over the last 70 years scientists have found that these coronaviruses can infect mice, rats, dogs, cats, turkeys, horses, pigs and cattle.
FAST FACTS ON CORONAVIRUS:-
1. There is no cure for the common cold.
2. A coronavirus causes both SARS and MERS.
3. Coronaviruses infect many different species.
4. There are 7 known human coronaviruses.
5. SARS spread from China and caused infection in 37 countries killing 774 people.
WHAT IS A CORONAVIRUS?
Human coronaviruses (HCoV) were first identified in the 1960s in the noses of patients with the common cold.Two human coronaviruses are responsible for a large proportion of common colds which are a.OC43 and b.229E. They get their name because of crown-like projections on their surfaces. Corona in Latin means ‘halo’ or ‘crown’. This infection in humans occurs during winters and early spring. Coronavirus antibodies do not last long and the antibodies for one strain of virus may be useless against other strains.
These were first identified in the 1960s but their actual place of origin is not known. Coronaviruses can infect both humans and animals. Most of them spread like other cold-causing viruses through the coughing and sneezing of other infected people, by touching an infected person’s hand or face or by touching surfaces like furniture or door knobs that have been touched by infected people. Most people get a coronavirus infection once in a lifetime, most likely during childhood. These are most common in the U.S during fall and winters.
SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS
These symptoms are similar to any upper respiratory infection like sneezing, runny nose, fatigue, coughing, sore throat or a fever, exacerbated asthma too. It is unidentifiable from other cold-causing viruses like Rhinovirus. If this infection spreads to the lower respiratory tract (windpipe and lungs)it can cause pneumonia especially in older people, people with heart disease or people with a weakened immune system. Human coronaviruses cannot be cultivated in the laboratory easily, unlike the Rhinovirus which is another cause of the common cold.
PRECAUTIONS TO BE TAKEN FOR CORONAVIRUS INFECTION
There is no vaccine available for it. It’s prevention is similar to that of the common cold. Some of them are—
1.Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm waater or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
2. Keep your hands and fingers away from your eyes, nose and throat.
3. Avoid close contact with infected people.
4. Get lots of rest and avoid overexertion.
5. Drink fluids mainly water.
6. Take over-the-counter medicine for a sore throat and fever. Aspirin must not be given to children or teens younger than 19 instead Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen or Naproxen should be given.
7. A humidifier, steamy shower or cool mist vaporizer can also help ease a sore throat.
8. Avoidance of smoking or going into smoky areas.
The responsible virus can be diagnosed by taking a sample of respiratory fluids like mucous from the nose or blood.
TYPES OF CORONAVIRUSES
There are currently 7 recognised types of coronaviruses that can infect humans. Common types include—-
1. 229E (Alpha coronavirus)
2. NL63 (Alpha coronavirus)
3. HKU1 (Beta coronavirus)
4. OC43 (Beta coronavirus)
Some rarer, more dangerous types include—MERS-CoV which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), the coronavirus responsible for SARS.
There has not been a great deal of research on how a coronavirus spreads from one person to next. But it is believed that the viruses transmit using secreted fluid from the respiratory system. Coronaviruses can spread in the following ways—
1. Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth can disperse droplets in air, spreading the virus.
2. Touching or shaking hands with an infected person can spread it thus.
3. Making contact with an infected surface and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth.
4. On rare occasions a coronavirus may spread through contact with faeces.
In 2019, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started monitoring the outbreak of a new coronavirus which was first identified in Wuhan, China. They have named it the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov). It typically led to a life-threatening form of pneumonia. This virus started off in the Guangdong province in South China in November 2002 reaching Hong Kong. From there it spread to 37 countries. SARS-CoV is unique. It can infect both the upper and lower respiratory tract and can also cause Gastroenteritis. SARS starts with a fever. And then people develop flu-like symptoms like—
1.Dry coughing 2.Chills 3.Diarrhoea.4.Breathlessness 5.Aches.Pneumonia is a severe lung infection that may develop afterwards. At its most advanced stage SARS can cause failure of lungs, heart or liver.
MERS is caused by the MERS-CoV coronavirus and was first identified in 2012. Coronaviruses are zoonotic meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. It was found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.