What Is Coronavirus? Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses known since the 1960s, which can infect humans and other animals.
Human coronaviruses are common worldwide. They usually cause mild to moderate respiratory illnesses. It is estimated that up to 10% of common cold cases are caused by this type of virus. Therefore, it is quite possible that you have already had at least one virus infection by a coronavirus and you don’t even know it.
Some serotypes, however, are more virulent and can cause severe pulmonary infection, with the risk of death. In the past 10 years, outbreaks of more aggressive strains in the Middle East and Southeast Asia have caused hundreds of deaths. Most of them from severe pneumonia.
The most recent outbreak came in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan, China. This new strain, still without a defined name. Already infected hundreds of people and has reached other countries, such as Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and the USA.
Some coronaviruses have been identified for many years. While others recognized only recently, such as the Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) coronavirus in 2012 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV) coronavirus in 2003, that emerged in Southeast Asia.
Coronaviruses infect mammals and birds. There are several different strains, with bats being the animals that harbor the greatest number of variants of the virus.
In humans, there are at least 7 coronavirus serotypes that cause disease:
- Wuhan-CoV or 2019-nCoV
Human coronaviruses usually spread from an infected person to others through:
- Airborne transmission when an infected patient coughs or sneezes.
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands with someone infected.
- Touch an object or surface that contaminated with the virus and then bring your hand to your mouth, nose or eyes.
- Rarely, contamination by contact with the patient’s feces.
Human coronavirus infections usually occur in the fall and winter months.
Most people infected with one or more of the common human coronaviruses during their lifetime, especially during childhood.
Nurseries and nursing homes for the elderly are establishments that often host outbreaks of coronavirus colds.
New outbreaks in the 2000s
Some types of coronavirus are zoonoses, that is, they can be transmitted from animals to humans.
The MERS-CoV outbreak began in the Middle East after the camel-to-human virus “leap” from humans. SARS-CoV in China probably came after the transmission of bats to humans.
When the coronavirus “jumps” from a species of animal to us humans. Outbreaks tend to be more serious, as they are completely new viruses for our immune system. The vast majority of people do not have any degree of immunity and those most weakened end up developing more severe infection.
We still do not know exactly how this new Wuhan serotype came about. But epidemiological investigations point to a seafood market. Where most patients had worked or visited, as the origin of this new outbreak. This market also sold live rabbits, snakes, and other animals.
In the first identified cases of this new outbreak, the majority of patients reported some link with the seafood and other animals market, suggesting that the initial spread came from animals to people.
However, as the number of patients increased, there was an increasing number of people who denied any contact with the market or other animals. Suggesting that the virus was now perpetuating itself through direct transmission from one person to another.
In the second half of January 2020, the Chinese government announced that the transmission of one person to another of this new serotype has been confirmed.
In most cases, coronavirus infections cause mild respiratory conditions. The incubation period varies from 2 to 14 days.
Common human coronaviruses, including types 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, usually cause mild to moderate diseases of the upper respiratory tract, such as the common cold.
Coronavirus colds are short-lived and heal spontaneously. The most common symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Otitis media (more common in children)
Eventually, human coronaviruses can cause diseases of the lower respiratory tract, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. In the serotypes listed above, these complications are uncommon and usually only happen in more debilitated people, with cardiopulmonary disease, with weakened immune systems, in babies or the elderly.
In outbreaks that occur in nursing homes, the mortality rate from coronavirus is usually around 8%.
Symptoms of MERS-CoV usually include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The disease often progresses to pneumonia. About 30 to 40% of patients diagnosed with the Middle East respiratory syndrome end up dying.
Symptoms of SARS-CoV infection usually include fever, chills, cough and body pain. The condition also usually develops pneumonia. Mortality from severe acute respiratory syndrome by coronavirus is usually 9 to 12%.
The new outbreak in Wuhan is very recent and we still don’t know how the virus will behave clinically. By January 2020, more than 200 cases reported, with at least 4 confirmed deaths.
The clinical picture is similar to that of the most aggressive coronaviruses. With respiratory virosis and some patients progressing to pneumonia.
The coronavirus can be identified in the laboratory by collecting nasopharyngeal secretion samples. The most used method today is RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction with reverse transcriptase).
There is no treatment available for coronavirus infections. The treatment used is only symptomatic, with control of fever and pain. In the vast majority of cases, the disease cures itself after a few days.
Patients with more severe conditions and suspected pneumonia need to be admitted to receive supportive care. Some patients progress with respiratory failure and need orotracheal intubation and mechanical ventilation.
Several antivirals and other agents have already been tested during the coronavirus outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV). But the effectiveness of these drugs has not been proven.
There are no vaccines available yet against human coronavirus infection. Prevention, therefore, comes down to personal care to reduce the risk of contagion, including:
- Avoid traveling to areas where outbreaks are occurring.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people with respiratory symptoms.
Published By Healthzigzag.com