What to know about coronaviruses
- by Admin
- 30th March, 2020
These viruses are typically responsible for common colds more than serious diseases. However, coronaviruses are also behind some more severe outbreaks.
Over the last 70 years, scientists have found that coronaviruses can infect mice, rats, dogs, cats, turkeys, horses, pigs, and cattle. Sometimes, these animals can transmit coronaviruses to humans.
Most recently, authorities identified a new coronavirus outbreak in China that has now reached other countries. It has the name coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19.
In this article, we explain the different types of human coronaviruses, their symptoms, and how people transmit them. We also focus on three particularly dangerous diseases that have spread due to coronaviruses: COVID-19, SARS, and MERS.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Symptoms vary from person-to-person with COVID-19. It may produce few or no symptoms. However, it can also lead to severe illness and may be fatal. Common symptoms include:
- potential loss of taste or smell
It may take 2–14 days for a person to notice symptoms after infection.
No vaccine is currently available for COVID-19. However, scientists have now replicated the virus. This could allow for early detection and treatment in people who have the virus but are not yet showing symptoms.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that several groups of people have the highest risk of developing complications due to COVID-19. These groups include:
- young children
- people aged 65 years or older
- women who are pregnant
The CDC advise that although there have been reports of complications in young children, these are rare. COVID-19 most commonly produces mild symptoms in children.
Cold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from 2–4 days after a coronavirus infection and are typically mild. However, symptoms vary from person-to-person, and some forms of the virus can be fatal.
Symptoms may include:
Scientists cannot easily cultivate human coronaviruses in the laboratory unlike the rhinovirus, which is another cause of the common cold. This makes it difficult to gauge the impact of the coronavirus on national economies and public health.
There is no cure for coronaviruses that cause symptoms resembling the common cold. Treatments include self-care and over-the-counter (OTC) medication. People can take several steps, including:
- resting and avoiding overexertion
- drinking enough water
- avoiding smoking and smoky areas
- taking acetaminophen for pain and fever
- using a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer
A doctor can diagnose the virus responsible by taking a sample of respiratory fluids, such as mucus from the nose, or blood.
Coronaviruses belong to the subfamily Coronavirinae in the family Coronaviridae.
Different types of human coronaviruses vary in how severe the resulting disease becomes, and how far they can spread.
Doctors currently recognize seven types of coronavirus that can infect humans.
Common types include:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
Rarer strains that cause more severe complications include MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and SARS-CoV, the virus responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).
In 2019, a new strain called SARS-CoV-2 started circulating, causing the disease COVID-19.
Limited research is available on how HCoV spreads from one person to the next.
However, researchers believe that the viruses transmit via fluids in the respiratory system, such as mucus.
Coronaviruses can spread in the following ways:
- Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth can disperse droplets into the air.
- Touching or shaking hands with a person who has the virus can pass the virus between individuals.
- Making contact with a surface or object that has the virus and then touching the nose, eyes, or mouth.
- Some animal coronaviruses, such as feline coronavirus (FCoV), may spread through contact with feces. However, it is unclear whether this also applies to human coronaviruses.
Coronaviruses will infect most people at some time during their lifetime.
Coronaviruses can mutate effectively, which makes them so contagious.
To prevent transmission, people should stay at home and rest while symptoms are active. They should also avoid close contact with other people.
Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief while coughing or sneezing can also help prevent transmission. It is important to dispose of any tissues after use and maintain hygiene around the home.