What is ‘COVID-19’ The 2020 CoronaVirus Disease ?

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The number one question you must be asking yourselves right now is, “what is a coronavirus?” 

Contrary to popular opinion, coronavirus is not a single virus, but a large family of viruses that infect birds, mammals, and humans. The coronaviruses cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe and devastating epidemics like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and the now identified novel coronavirus (nCoV).

The coronavirus is zoonotic. That means the virus is transmittable between animals and humans. In fact, the main hosts of coronaviruses are animals, which then transmit the virus either directly to you or through an intermediate animal. The evidence of that is in two previous coronaviruses SARS and MERS. 

  1. According to discoveries, SARS is transmittable from civet cats to humans, but the virus first jumped from bats to civets, and so the civet was the intermediate carrier in that case.  
  2. MERS comes from dromedary camels to humans.  
What is Corona Virus COVID-19
What is Corona Virus COVID-19

According to various reports, the outbreak of novel coronavirus jumped from bats to humans through an intermediate carrier that scientists are yet to determine.

1. Does The Coronavirus Spread From Human To Human?

The answer is yes; coronavirus can spread from one human to another through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets are the watery particles —saliva— that come out of your mouth or nose when you sneeze, cough, or breathe. If, for instance, you have coronaviruses and your respiratory droplets are in one way or another inhaled by a person near you, it shall infect the person. Researches have also confirmed asymptomatic transmission of the virus.

Additionally, if the person next to you also touches an object or an item that comes into contact with your respiratory droplets, they will get infected as well, especially if you used the same hands to touch your mouth or your face. 

2. Can We Lower the Risk Of Coronavirus From Humans-to-Humans?

Yes, we can, but only if you follow the recommended guidelines below.

The standard recommendations for the prevention of the spread of coronavirus include;

  • Washing your hands frequently 
  • Avoiding the habit of touching your mouth, eyes, and face. 
  • Disinfecting any object or surface you think you might come into contact with or are about to touch 
  • Cook your meat and eggs thoroughly 
  • Avoid anyone with symptoms of coronavirus —we shall learn about symptoms shortly 
  • When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth and nose  

These guidelines will help you avoid coming into contact with infected respiratory droplets. 

3. What are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization, the common signs of coronavirus include breathing difficulties, shortness of breath, cough, and fever. However, these are signs of mild cases of infection. If you are in a severe case, the symptoms you will experience include organ failure, pneumonia, and even death.        

4. Where Did The Coronavirus COVID-19 Originate?

With thousands dead, cities of millions of people in China under lockdown, and countries closing their borders, not to mention travel bans to China has been like a game played by states all over the world to see who can issue theirs the fastest, it makes you wonder, “how did we get here?” “Where did this virus originate from, and how has it been able to spread so quickly?” 

Here is a brief explanation of where this ‘Demon virus’ originated from; we shall also look at the pathway it has taken from the time of the first outbreak/patient zero up to this point where it has now become a global epidemic.

December 31, 2019 :

As countries all over the world are preparing to usher in a new year, a good number of people in the Wuhan state of China report having pneumonia that has no clear origin. This report reaches the World Health Organization. On the same day, the hospitals discover that all the pneumonia patients have one thing in common: The Wuhan seafood market!     

January 1, 2020:

Authorities cordon off the Wuhan seafood market, suspecting it as the origin of the virus.  

January 7, 2020:

The Chinese authorities report that they have found the cause of the pneumonia-like condition. They declare it is a new virus that comes from the broader family of coronaviruses, and name it the coronavirus COVID-19. 

January 9, 2020:

China confirms the first coronavirus COVID-19 death. The number of infected people at this point stands at 40.    

January 13, 2020:

Thailand reports the first coronavirus case outside China.

January 15, 2020:

Japan reports its first coronavirus case. 

January 20, 2020:

South Korea reports a coronavirus case. On the same day, researchers discovered that the coronavirus could spread from one person to another. At this point, there were 282 cases of coronavirus reported in four countries. 

January 21, 2020:

Coronavirus reported cases rise to 314.  

January 23, 2020:

The reported cases increase to 581 cases, a majority of them being from China. The Government of Wuhan closes off the streets and shuts down public transportation.  

January 30, 2020:

The World Health Organization declares coronavirus COVID-19 a public health emergency; at this point, 18 countries outside China report 82 cases.  

January 31, 2020:

The coronavirus reaches every state in China, and in a period of 24-hours, authorities report 2,000 new cases. Reported cases now stand at 9,800 across 21 countries. 

February 2, 2020:

A 44 years old Chinese dies of coronavirus in the Philippines and becomes the first coronavirus death reported outside mainland China 

February 4, 2020:

Hong Kong reports the second death outside China.    

February 17, 2020:

According to WHO, the number of reported coronavirus cases stands at 71, 429. Of those, 70,635 cases are from China. The death toll is at 1775 globally, with only 3 of those deaths coming from countries outside China. 

That is how we got to where we are today.  

5. Just How Dangerous is COVID-19?

The outbreak of this new coronavirus has caused the world to panic. The neighbouring states of China have closed-off their borders to China; other countries are now refusing entry to any foreign nationals who have visited the Asian countries in recent times. Some states have outrightly suspended flights to China altogether.   

How dangerous is this new coronavirus? The truth is that there isn’t enough data collected to know the full danger the virus poses. That said, a few statistics can help us get an idea of how dangerous this virus is.

As we speak today, COVID-19 has killed more than 2,300 people, which means it has already surpassed the number of deaths caused by the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that caused 800 deaths. Alone, this shows that the COVID-19 is spreading faster than SARS and MERS. That said, according to WHO, COVID-19 has a current mortality rate of 2%, which is lower than what SARS had, a 9% mortality rate, while MERS had a 35% mortality rate.

Here is a scientific explanation of how coronaviruses gets into your body and what it does once there.

6. The Science of Coronaviruses

As you now know, coronaviruses can infect you when you come into contact with the virus through an infected person’s respiratory secretion like a sneeze and a cough, or through physically touching a surface that has the virus and then using those hands to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. The question left unanswered is, “what happens when the coronavirus enters your body?”

One of the things that viruses have in common is they all carry genetic material that can be DNA or RNA. In the case of coronavirus, it has the RNA that contains all the information the virus needs to duplicate. When the virus gets into your body, it gets down to the process of replicating. Here it’s how it does that.

7. What happens when the coronavirus gets into the body?

Once in your body, the coronaviruses bind themselves to the outer protein receptors of your cells and form what usually looks like a solar crown when viewed under an electron microscope. That image, matter of fact, is what gives the virus its name CORONA, which is a Latin word for crown. 

When coronaviruses find relatable cells in your body, they pair up. If the outer layer of your cell were a lock, the outer layer of the coronavirus would be a key. If the key matches the lock, the lock will open. That is how the coronavirus opens up the right cell. 

Once the virus gets into your cell, it accesses your cellular machinery. Usually, your body, and to be precise, your DNA, uses the cell machinery to produce proteins that serve different purposes in your body. When the coronavirus infects the cells, all that changes. The virus hijacks the machinery by releasing its RNA to the ribosome of the cell that is responsible for producing proteins, making it produce the proteins the virus needs to reproduce. This action automatically turns your cell into a factory of viruses. In short, the virus uses your cell machinery to duplicate. Once the production of viruses in your cells increases, they start migrating from the cell and damage it in the process. They then move to another cell and duplicate themselves again and keep repeating the cycle with all other cells. 

Once your body detects the death of its cells, it triggers an immune response to fight the virus. The immune system sends cytokines that recruit immune cells and take them to the site of infection. The immune cells then fight off the viruses in a bid to restore order in the body. 

This juncture is where the danger of coronavirus comes in. Here is how:  

In a typical case, the immune response is usually safe and helpful to your body. That changes when a coronavirus attacks you. When your body notices an attack from a coronavirus, your immune response dispatches a massive number of cytokines to your lungs without regulation. That means your immune system launches an attack on your infected cells as well as your healthy ones. 

The result of this cytokine-storm includes inflammation in your lungs, which causes fluids to leak through the air sacks. This process is what causes you to experience some of the mild symptoms like fever, cough headache, and being short of breath. When the situation gets worse, you experience severe symptoms like pneumonia and death. 

Now that you know the facts about the novel coronavirus, we can discuss controversial coronavirus conspiracy theories and find out if they are true or false:

8. How Coronavirus Spreads and Replicates

This coronavirus has been traced back to animals as the reservoirs of the virus. Tracing this virus down to bats, however, doesn’t explain how it got into the body of a human host in the first place and so investigations are still ongoing to understand more about the nature of the intermediate animal host (maybe a domestic animal) that then transmitted it to a human.

When the atomic structure of the virus was mapped, it became possible to understand how the virus replicates itself as soon as it enters into the body of a host and starts an infection. Since the first human host became infected, however, the form of transmission of the virus has changed from animal-human to human-human.

9. How does the Coronavirus get into the body?

Based on the reports that have been issued on this novel virus, it is known that the major medium of transmission of the virus is through droplets and fomites that are present during unprotected contact between someone who’s already been infected by the virus and someone who hasn’t been infected yet.

Typically, coronaviruses have been reported as being airborne during peak winter or fall months when it survives best but so far, there have been no signs of the airborne nature of transmission for this new virus and you are only at risk when you’ve been in close contact with an infected person who released droplets while sneezing or coughing.

These droplets can then get into your body through your nose, mouth, eyes and can attach itself to other parts of your skin like your fingers or under your nails. If these droplets did not first enter your eyes or nose or mouth when you came in close contact with an infected person but somehow become attached to your fingers or hands, you can also infect yourself when you bring your fingers up to your facial area or when you rub your eyes.

The reason for the successful spread of the virus in China has been shown to be the result of clusters of families and the way they live together which has promoted effective transmission from one member of the family and onto the next.

In a bid to slow the secondary spread of the virus from affected to unaffected people, the Chinese Health Ministry deployed epidemiologists to trace contacts around the provinces in Wuhan who have recently come in contact with people that have confirmed cases of the virus.

It is very painstaking work and yet, this has led to the discovery of even more infection cases early on, which has greatly lowered the impact of the virus spread.

The virus, due to the fact that it can be spread from one person to another even if the first person hasn’t started showing physical symptoms yet, could not be contained in only Wuhan, China. It slowly spread to more provinces closest to Wuhan such as Jingzhou and Ezhou.

Given the period of time when the virus was first noticed, which was during the chunyun (Chinese New Year), the virus would inevitably spread because of the constant, busy movement going on within China during that time. This is how the virus first spread to more areas within China especially cities that have the highest volume of traffic to and from Wuhan.

10. How does the Coronavirus affect the body’s Internal organs?

The name of the virus says it all about the particular area of the body where the virus mostly attacks; the respiratory system. The lungs are usually affected first even though other parts of the body are not exempted from the damage caused by the virus as it grows and replicates inside the body.

In order to understand the various organs of the body that this virus affects, we’ll take a closer look at the presenting symptoms that have been observed in both mild and severe cases of the respiratory disease.

The earliest symptom for anyone that comes in close contact and becomes infected with the virus includes:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose

These early symptoms come out as early as 2 days after exposure to the virus or it can take more time like up to 14 days before any symptoms appear. The reason these symptoms take different times to manifest physical symptoms in different people is that the virus is expressed uniquely inside every one of us, depending on the way our immune system responds to the presence of the virus in our bodies.

Data that has been collected so far on the severity of the illness have shown that the majority of the people who come down with the disease have shown mild symptoms that typically resolve after some time and following some self-care methods like staying hydrated, eating healthy foods and fruits, etc.

The severe cases, however, are so severe that some have died as a result of this disease and as of the 1st of March 2020, fatalities have risen to over 3,000 deaths.

In attacking the lungs first, the virus can produce minor respiratory symptoms such as cough and shortness of breath but unlike any other coronavirus that is known, it is also capable of progressing to lower respiratory tract areas, increasing the infection inside the body, causing first, non-life threatening pneumonia and then more severe symptoms that have been described as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which requires life-support to aid the normal respiratory activities of affected individuals.

More research has shown that some severe cases of the diseases also have an occurrence of gastrointestinal symptoms such as feelings of nausea in the stomach and even cases of diarrhea. In some stool samples that were collected from the earliest cases of the disease, traces of the virus were found although these traces weren’t transmissible from that medium.

The SARS-CoV-2 can also affect the heart and blood vessels and this has been shown in the symptoms of irregular heart rhythms alongside shortness of breath in people with severe cases.

When we think about it, the first point of attack of this virus makes it inevitable that more areas of the body will become affected. For the simple fact that the lungs and the other organs in the respiratory system are in charge of ensuring that the body’s access to the oxygen that it needs to function remains intact.

When the system in charge of oxygen faces damage, every other part of the body is thrown into serious trouble and this has been the case in the progression of this disease in the most severe cases.

Another system that is involved deeply in the manifestation of this disease is the immune system. We already know that as long as we wake up and go out every day, we come in contact with microorganisms that can be potentially pathogenic. The one thing that stands between us and falling sick every time we leave our house is our immune system and when it comes to fighting viruses like this one, the immune system plays an important role.

The role that the immune system plays by stimulating the production of antibodies that protect our bodies from attack is costly, however, because these immune processes can turn around and attack the healthy cells in our bodies in a way that becomes self-destructive.

Most of the damage that is recorded in the bodies of the people with severe cases of COVID-1 9 is caused by complex inflammatory immune reactions that the body has initiated to protect itself and this reality, is perhaps, the one that draws the most concern from all health care professionals and international health bodies.

11. How Fast Coronavirus Replicate and what Environmental Conditions Help it Best?

Typically, all coronaviruses live longer in colder regions and this is also clear from the fact that we are prone to catching a cold during the winter months. The SARS-C0V-2 has not shown any deviation from this normal behavior of coronaviruses and it is believed that the reason it was able to spread as quickly as it has, could be because the outbreak started in December a peak winter month.

The countries that have shown the highest cases outside of China have also been countries that are currently in winter and this has led health authorities all around the world to believe that the weather condition actually plays an important role in helping the viruses live for longer periods of time outside the human body.

12. What kinds of Treatments exist so far for this Coronavirus Disease?

What is currently known about the virus and its structure, the development of vaccines is still underway in various leading research facilities around the world and the release of vaccines to the public for this coronavirus has been moved up to top priority.

In the past outbreaks of SARS and MERS, progress was made in the development of antiviral medications that can help cure the illness but once the spread of the epidemic slowed, further research and development were dropped as there would be no further need for the antiviral medications.

During that time, a drug named Remsidivir was developed and had reached the stage of human clinical trials for the 2003 SARS outbreak before the spread slowed. Tests have commenced in China to find out how efficient this antiviral drug would be against the novel coronavirus but it has not been described as a “cure” for the virus.

As has been the case with all the outbreaks of viral infections, attention has been drawn to the fact that prevention is a better option than looking for a cure as the search for a cure would take longer and for a virus that replicates as fast as this virus has shown, a cure can come too late.

To this end, international health regulatory bodies such as the WHO and the CDC have released preventive measures that have worked for outbreaks of similar viruses and have issued statements encouraging every individual to take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families from the onset of the disease.

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