Coronavirus refers to a large group of viruses that cause various diseases in multiple species including humans, rats, mice, turkey, pigs, chickens, farm animals, felines, ferrets. The name is derived from the Latin word Corona meaning halo or crown.
It is so named based on its structure under the microscope. It shows crown-like projections on its surface. Its structure comprises enveloped single RNA strands. The enveloped structure of the virus grants more strength to it than other non-enveloped viruses. This distinct feature in its structure has made the virus resistant to effective treatment.
Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1960s from infected chickens. Two viruses were identified from the specimens taken from the upper respiratory tract in humans. These strains were subsequently named 229E and OC43. Other strains were further identified in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2012 and 2019.
All of these strains were mostly involved in the upper respiratory tract like infections. The evidence of infection by coronavirus has existed in veterinary medicine since the early 1970s. Common diseases among animals include the infection of the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tract of mammals and birds, bronchitis, gastroenteritis.
The MERS and SARS strains have a significant role in coronavirus history. The SARS strain first emerged in 2003 in Asia. It spread across dozens of countries infecting and killing a great number of people. As soon as the virus was contained, it disappeared quickly. Then a new strain was discovered in Saudi Arabia in 2012 termed as MERS. It also caused an outbreak of severe illness.
The highest number of cases reported by a coronavirus outbreak was in 2003 until December 2019. A new strain of coronavirus was detected in the central city of Wuhan in China. Similarly, few cases have been reported in the United States as well. The number of cases reported from the current outbreak has crossed that of SARS.
Following are the seven strains of human coronaviruses that have been identified:
Out of these, there are four common types that cause common cold among humans. These include:
Whereas MERS-CoV and SARS-Cov are the more dangerous types of this virus
The four common human coronaviruses are responsible for causing mild to moderate upper respiratory tract infections with flu-like symptoms. These strains are not responsible for infecting lower respiratory tract. Such mild symptoms last only a short amount of time, making them insignificant. Although associated with mild symptoms, infection with coronavirus does not leave an imprint on the infected person’s immune system. This makes the immune system as unprepared for any number of attacks of the virus as the first one. That is why one person can become infected with the virus again after a short period of time.
People infected with the common strains of the the virus may experience:
Coronavirus infection is not severe in most of cases. There are several groups which are at greater risk for developing serious illness by a coronavirus.
These include people with
Only MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV of the coronavirus is associated with severe symptoms. Underlying conditions such as heart disease or weakened immune system can affect the severity of symptoms, often causing life-threatening illnesses. The severity of the infection is dependent on the main region of infectivity. The dangerous strains have been discovered to cause lower respiratory tract infections.
These severe type of infections lead to classic symptoms like
Most infections caused by the coronaviruses are mild. However, the incidence of mortality has been indicated in coronavirus patients. It greatly depends on the patient’s health status prior to being infected. About every 3 out of 10 individual infected with dangerous strains has died. The majority of these people had underlying health conditions that compromised their immunity leading to more severe symptoms.
In conclusion, the coronavirus group infects both humans and animals. In addition to the current outbreak of a new strain, there are known and well-documented outbreaks of previous strains across Asia, the Middle East, and North America. While most strains cause mild flu-like symptoms, a few strains cause severe diseases like pneumonia and bronchitis. Although, there is no such treatment available for it a healthy lifestyle and environment along with the practice of precautionary measures can help eliminate the risk of disease.
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17 November, 2019