Although the coronavirus has been in existence for more than 50 years, it is not until recent years that the disease has caused global attention. In the wake of 2020, an outbreak of the virus has caused a major crisis in China. So what is this infection and is it treatable?
Coronaviruses are many all over the world. They are known to cause mild to moderate illness in people. There have been, however, three newer types that have resulted in severe illness and even death. We have compiled for you everything you need to know about coronavirus.
What is Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organisation, coronavirus is a family of viruses that cause sickness in humans and animals. In humans, sickness usually ranges from the common cold to severe respiratory illnesses. In animals, it causes illness in the gastrointestinal tract.
It was discovered in the 1960s and was given its name after the Latin word “corona” that means crown or halo. The reason being that when viewed under a microscope, the image of the virus looks like a royal crown.
It had received little attention until 2002 when there was a severe pneumonia outbreak that was linked to the infection as the causative agent. The most talked-about human strains are the last three types discovered in recent years.
The disease mostly affects adults, although there have been few cases of coronavirus in babies reported. They, however, have been characteristic of mild symptoms that cleared on their own. The first encounter was in 2004 in a 7-month-old infant.
The coronavirus meaning in humans is a group of viruses that cause upper or lower respiratory infection and sometimes both.
Types of coronavirus
There are seven known types of the disease in humans. The first four are common and, they continually circulate in the human population. They cause respiratory infections in adults and children all over the world. They are mild and most clear on their own. They are:
- Human CoV 229E
- Human CoV OC43
- Human CoV NL63 (New Haven CoV)
- Human CoV HKU1
The last cluster of three has caused epidemics over the years. They are more severe and sometimes lead to death. They are:
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV)
The SARS coronavirus discovery occurred in 2002 in Guangdong province, China. They believed it transmitted from an animal, and it spread through international travel to over 20 countries. By the time it was contained, it had killed over 700 people in the over 8000 reported infected people.
There is no current cure for SARS, but research is trying to find a vaccine. SARS coronavirus treatment involves admission in hospital for isolation and close observation. Part of the management may include oxygen therapy, antibiotics and antiviral medicine.
Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS CoV)
MERS coronavirus discovery occurred in 2012 in the sputum of a Saudi man who died of respiratory failure. According to the WHO, the infection transmitted through the camel. The disease causes gastrointestinal symptoms, and acute kidney failure, therefore, is more severe.
Novel coronavirus (Wuhan CoV)
Discovered by the WHO in early Jan 2020 in China after a cluster of Pneumonia cases reported in Wuhan, China, on 31st December 2019. It has spread rapidly and, human-to-human transmission confirmed although the first cases emerged from a sea-food market. The World Health Organisation has named it the 2019 novel CoV.
How does coronavirus attack the body?
Coronavirus replication occurs when the virus enters the body. The major step being when the virus binds to a receptor on the coronavirus host target cell surface. It then fuses the viral and host membranes. In the cell, it attaches to ribosomes so that translation can occur. It has a protein called replicase that allows the viral genome copied to form new RNA copies of the virus using the host cell. After this, the RNA able to multiply and spread to other cells in the host.
How is coronavirus transmitted?
According to the Center for Disease Control, the coronavirus infection can be transmitted even during its incubation period. In a statement issued by the World Health Organisation, they said: “Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.” However, once a human is infected, transmission occurs from an infected person to another either through:
- Air by sneezing or coughing
- Touching someone or a surface with the virus then touching your mouth nose or eyes without washing your hands.
- Close personal contact with an infected person
Signs and Symptoms
According to research, the coronavirus incubation period is unknown. However, when the signs begin to show, the human coronavirus symptoms range from upper to lower respiratory infections. Some of them include:
- Running nose
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
In more severe cases, it can lead to
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome
- Kidney failure
How is the diagnosis made?
Coronavirus diagnosis is available in many hospitals, especially in high-risk regions. Many laboratory tests are available to identify the infection. The healthcare provider orders tests that require either nasal and throat swabs or blood samples. Sometimes chest X-rays or CT scan may be done to show any signs of pneumonia that is characteristic of the infection.
Is the disease preventable?
Currently, they is no vaccine to protect you against the infection. However, coronavirus prevention can be achieved by reducing the risk. This includes:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water
- Avoid close contact with people who have a fever or cough
- Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and wash hands immediately
- Avoid consumption of raw and under-cooked animal products
Is there a cure?
No. There is no known coronavirus cure. Treatment usually includes the management of symptoms. Some of the things done include re-hydration and taking plenty of rest. In the more serious reported infections, the patients require to be admitted in hospital. Here they undergo management of the symptoms that usually involves:
- Isolation to prevent cross-transmission
- Oxygen therapy for the breathing difficulties and sometimes ventilation
- Antibiotics and antiviral medicine
In the recent cases of the nCoV outbreak in China, ongoing research is showing a potential cure with the use of HIV drugs. The HIV coronavirus drug is still under study.
Coronavirus in animals
The infection was in animals isolated in the early 1970s. Unlike humans, in animals, it mostly affects the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the types of infection in animals include:
This is coronavirus in dogs. Its mode of transmission is through oral contact with infected stool. If a dog feeds from a contaminated bowl or direct contact with coronavirus dogs, they can also be infected. It incubates for about four days, although a dog may be a carrier for up to six months.
The disease is characteristic of diarrhea, lack of appetite and lethargy. There is no cure for the virus, although a vaccine is available for prevention of the disease. Some people believe that dog coronavirus can transfer to human, but research does not agree.
Normally the type of coronavirus in cats. It causes mild diarrhea, although recurrent and persistent infections lead to the development of Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) that is more severe. The cats shed the infection in stool. It can also infect a breastfeeding kitten since the illness is also present in its breast-milk.
The symptoms last 2 to 4 days and the infected cats can be treated through rehydration and diet restriction until the symptoms clear. A vaccine is available for prevention, although according to research, it is not very effective.
Commonly known as the type of coronavirus in horse. It presents as diarrhea and colic in infected horses. Some of the clinical signs include anorexia and fever. Some acute cases lead to death, although, in most cases, it usually resolves on its own. It is transmitted when an infected horse feeds from anything contaminated with the stool of an infected horse.
The fact that the disease is common means that most of us have contracted it at some point in our lives. However, with the rising cases of the severe form of the coronavirus, we should be vigilant.
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