Coronaviruses are a group of common viruses that cause diseases among mammals and birds – mostly from bats, pigs, camels, and certain breeds of cats. The virus is known to infect the nose, sinuses, and upper throat, yet most types of coronavirus are not harmful. In recent history, two deadly types of coronaviruses were discovered. One originated from China in 2004, which caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (known as SARS-CoV) that killed up to 800 people, while the other one originated from Saudi Arabia in 2012, which killed nearly 900 people through the Middle East respiratory syndrome (known as MERS-CoV). Even though both these types of coronaviruses were deadly, they were successfully contained, and since their outbreak, there have been no reported cases regarding them.
Yet, a brand-new dangerous coronavirus has been discovered in the Chinese province of Wuhan during December 2019, which is being coined as '2019 n-CoV'. This type of coronavirus is suspected of having been transferred from bats to stray cats and pigs, which has been further transferred onto humans.
Coronaviruses were initially discovered in the 1960s, and like most viruses, they spread through the air after coughing or sneezing and through human contact. Coronaviruses have a unique crown-like shape; thus, the virus was named 'corona'.
Coronavirus has symptoms common to other diseases like flu, common cold, or warts. Hence it can be difficult to visually tell if someone has coronavirus. Symptoms of coronavirus include:
• Runny nose
• Sore throat
• Frequent sneezing
• Muscle pain
Since coronavirus is a relatively new virus and the rarer, lethal forms of it that cause MERS and SARS were only discovered a decade or two ago, there is not much research nor information on how the coronavirus is caused. The origins of coronavirus can be tracked to farm and domesticated animals like bats, chickens, pigs, camels, cats, ferrets, and rabbits, but the exact cause or reason for why these animals get infected is unknown.
What we know is that the virus attacks and infects the respiratory and gut systems of the animals, leading to a range of diseases among these animals, such as bronchitis, hepatitis, and pneumonia. When the coronavirus is transferred from animals to humans, the human body gets infected with similar respiratory diseases. Among older people, the coronavirus can cause more severe diseases like cancer, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
There are several variants of coronavirus, but only seven of them can infect the human body. As mentioned before, most of the types of coronavirus are not dangerous but the rarer forms like the MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and the newest 2019 n-CoV are the most lethal ones.
What makes the 2019 n-CoV different?
At this moment, the differences between the newest form of coronavirus from other versions are unclear. What we know is that the 2019 n-CoV is spreading from person to person since most patients have not had contact with animal or seafood markets. The 2019 n-CoV is seen to be most like SARS-CoV, as both coronaviruses seemingly spread from contact of three feet within an ill person and mutate heavily, leading to high contagiousness. As a result, 2019 n-CoV is a threat to largely populated or dense countries like China, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
The primary medium of transmission of the coronavirus is hand-to-hand contact between a healthy and infected person, and from sneezing or coughing by an infected person. Other ways of transmission include:
• Contacting a surface that has traces of the virus-like a hand knob and then touching your face, nose, mouth or eyes
• Skin contact with feces
Overall, coronaviruses are a group of crown-shaped viruses that are incredibly contagious due to their rapid mutations, but most types of coronaviruses are not fatal. The more fatal forms of coronavirus include the MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, which had outbreaks in the Middle East and China over the past two decades. The newest form of coronavirus known as '2019 n-CoV' originated from China through bats and is highly contagious. A lot about the 2019 n-CoV is unknown, but as of now, it has killed up to 150 people in China and spread to nearly 30 countries.