Last Updated on Mar 21, 2020

What is Coronavirus?

The start of the year 2020 has an outbreak of a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). In early December 2019, a number of pneumonia cases were reported in individuals exposed to a seafood and animal wholesale market in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China.(1, 2) Soon this new virus strain that was not reported in humans previously, was discovered to be the cause of the outbreak and worse was that the pneumonia could turn fatal. Within a month of the outbreak on 30 January the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a global emergency.(3)

World Health Organization reported that on 3rd Feb 2020 around 17391 people had been infected with 361 deaths reported. One needs to understand that the current strain of the virus is fatal only for people who have an underlying chronic illness such as asthma or who are otherwise immuno-compromised for any reason.

Why is the New Strain of Coronavirus More Dangerous?

What is worrisome about this new strain of coronavirus is that patients have no symptoms when they get infected. The infective stage of this virus starts a week before the flu like symptoms appear, hence by the time it is detected the virus has already infected many individuals and spreads to another location.

About Coronavirus

Coronaviruses is a large (diameter of ~125 nm) positive-strand RNA virus that is surrounded by a protein envelope and are found mostly in animal species, such as bats, camels, cats, and cattle, in humans, and in some birds. Coronavirus obtains its name from the S protein spikes on its surface, which resemble a crown. The S protein attaches to and penetrates the host surface by binding the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) receptor. These viruses were considered mild pathogens in humans causing only a common cold.(4)

However, in 2003, the deadly Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)outbreak resulted from a coronavirus that was transmitted from bats, a natural host, to palm civets, an intermediate host. Humans exposed to these live palm civets got infected with the virus that jumped species. The viral infection spread over 24 countries and caused large-scale mortality. This changed the face of the pathological nature of coronaviruses.(5) In 2012, another deadly coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was reported in Saudi Arabia. In this case too, viruses were transmitted from bats to camels and eventually to humans.(6, 7, 8)

References:

  1. A Novel Coronavirus from Patients with Pneumonia in China, 2019 - (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2001017?query=featured_coronavirus)
  2. 2019 Novel Coronavirus: How We Got from the First Case to Today - (https://thewire.in/health/2019-novel-coronavirus-how-we-got-from-the-first-case-to-today)
  3. The Novel Coronavirus Originating in Wuhan, China: Challenges for Global Health Governance - (http://jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jama.2020.1097)
  4. Mechanisms of Coronavirus Cell Entry Mediated by the Viral Spike Protein - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3397359/)
  5. From SARS to MERS, Thrusting Coronaviruses into the Spotlight - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30646565)
  6. Coronavirus Infections-More Than Just the Common Cold - (http://jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?doi=10.1001/jama.2020.0757)
  7. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome - (http://www.ijmm.org/article.asp?issn=0255-0857;year=2003;volume=21;issue=3;spage=152;epage=160;aulast=Thomas)
  8. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome: A New Global Threat - (http://www.ijaweb.org/text.asp?2016/60/2/85/176286)
  9. Human Coronavirus Types - (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/types.html)
  10. About 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) - (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html)
  11. How 2019-nCOV Spreads - (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html)
  12. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and You - (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf)
  13. 13. 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Important Information for Clinicians - (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2760782)
  14. Why India Should Worry about the New Coronavirus - (https://thewire.in/health/wuhan-coronavirus-sars-mers-flu-pandemic-quarantine-bats-wet-markets)

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