Coronavirus first of all is not an individual virus, it’s a family of RNA viruses, with nearly 100 viruses known, which are in medical terms called coronaviridae. It has a subfamily named orthocoronavirinae. These are virus that range from common cold to the present infection i.e, covid-19. The 2002 outbreak of SARS in China and 2012 outbreak of MERS in Saudi Arabia were also coronaviruses.
These coronaviruses are not something new to mankind. They have been present in the environment a long time but were exclusively circulated among animals. But it was first discovered in the 1930s when there was an outbreak of acute respiratory infections in chickens. But Human coronavirus infections were not discovered untill 1960s when it was first seen in the United kingdom. There has been a lot of outbreaks of coronaviruses thereafter like in including SARS-CoV in 2003, HCoV NL63 in 2004, HCoV HKU1 in 2005, MERS-CoV in 2012, and now SARS-CoV-2 in 2019.
I’d like to make one more distinction here and that is, the novel virus has been named CoVID-19 not because it’s the nineteenth virus but because It was DISCOVERED IN 2019.
Historically in almost all human infections of coronvirus, the reservoir were bats with some intermediate hosts like civet cats in SARS or camels in MERS. But having all human infections coming from bats does not mean it can’t originate from other animals as primary reservoirs.
Coronavirus is a large virus (conpared to other viruses), spherical in shape with spike like projections on the surface. It’s covered in an envelope,just like when you would cover a ball with paper, which protects it from outer hazardous conditions. It’s an RNA type virus which means that it needs a host like us or animals to use the host’s DNA to make its proteins, for its survival and spread.
These viruses can be transmitted via the respiratory droplets like when one sneezes or coughs, through fomites or maybe through feco-oral route, the non respiratory routes are mainly in animals and not for humans.
But the COVID-19 virus spreads primarily through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
The COVID-19 primarily affects lungs as most human coronviruses and in animals it mostly affects their digestive system.
Caution; It’s still not proven that once you get the COVID-19 infection, you are immune to it. Their have been reports in China that people are getting reinfected with COVID-19 after they recovered from the previous infection.
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of these symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
Children have similar symptoms to adults and generally have mild illness.
This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.When to Seek Medical Attention
If you have any of these emergency warning signs* for COVID-19 get medical attention immediately:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
*This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.- Source-Centre for disease control and prevention
It can also cause diarrhoea and chest pain.
Coronaviruses can cause Pneumonia(either directly or through secondary bacterial infections ) and Bronchitis (either direct viral bronchitis or secondary bacterial bronchitis). The human coronavirus discovered in 2003, SARS-CoV, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), has a unique pathogenesis because it causes both upper and lower respiratory tract infections. (Click on the highlighted part to read more about it)
The present epidemic of the COVID-19 is a novel strain, not seen previously in humans. It’s similarities to coronvirus present in bats is around 96%, hence its thought (not proven) to originate in bats and then passed on to humans through some intermediate host, most speculated now are the Pangolins which are sold in the wet markets around the world.
The previously known coronaviruses caused pneumonia as the most common complication which can be fatal as was seen in SARS and MERS outbreak.
But COVID-19 usually causes mild symptoms like- Cold, Cough (mostly dry coung), Mild fever, or body aches or no symptoms at all as is being seen. Pneumonia, high fever and breathing difficulties are the most common complications of COVID-19 seen so far. It’s also seen that there are some cases in which it caused storke, cardiac arrests and multi organ failure.
In immunocompromised individuals it can cause serious life threatening infection.
It was speculated that it mostly affected the elderly and people with pre existing medical conditions, which still holds true, but at the same there have been rising number of cases and complications in young and healthy people and even children with no pre existing conditions at all.
There’s No Definitive treatment available at the moment but a few drugs like Hydroxychloroquine, which is used against malaria, or Antiviral drug named Remdesivir, which was originally developed for ebola and Marburg virus ( But was found ineffective), are being looked into. Studies are still going on to assess whether these drugs are effective against COVID-19.
Caution: Don’t go and get yourselves these drugs because, firstly their efficacy is still under trial and secondly there are known fatal side effects in people with certain conditions.
There is no vaccine currently available but trials are now underway in the US and in other countries. But the availability of the vaccines, assuming they work, is still at least 12-15 months away because they need to be tested for their effectiveness and also for the side effects that it may produce which takes time. Generally to develop a vaccine there are years of clinical trials needed to establish its efficacy and to study it’s side effects before it can be widely used in populations.
As there are no treatments or vaccines available prevention is the best possible solution we have right now.
Below are the recommendations from the WHO-
To prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, do the following:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
- Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your face.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Stay home if you feel unwell.
- Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
- Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.
There a few more points that I would like to add to the given recommendations-
1- Refrain from drinking alcohol. It decreases body’s immunity against infections.
2- In immunocompromised individuals COVID-19 can cause serious life threatening infection, so maintain your distance of at least 1 meter and ideally 2 meters from these people. If these individuals get the infection it will be most likely fatal.
3- If possible don’t eat out. The chances of you getting an infection will be increased if you are with people in places like restaurants or bars. If you want outside food ask them if they can deliver or go there and make it a pickup.
We all need to help each other in this time of crisis irrespective of the caste, color or religion. This is a crisis on humankind and not just on some individuals or a particular set of people. If possible help someone get their essential supplies or donate to a charity that you know are helping the needy. There are many poor workers and people who lost their jobs due to ongoing crisis, who need help to make their ends meet. Even if you can help only one person that itself is enough.
According to The Economic Times-
Israel has isolated a key coronavirus antibody at its main biological research laboratory, the Israeli defence minister said on Monday, calling the step a “significant breakthrough” toward a possible treatment for the coronvirus pandemic.
The “monoclonal neutralising antibody” developed at the Israel institute of biological research (IIBR) “can neutralise it (the disease-causing coronavirus) inside carriers’ bodies,” Defence Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement.
The statement added that Bennett visited the Israel Institute for Biological Research on Monday where he was briefed “on a significant breakthrough in finding an antidote for the coronavirus”.
It quoted IIBR Director Shmuel Shapira as saying that the antibody formula was being patented, after which an international manufacturer would be sought to mass-produce it.
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