What to Know About The Coronavirus

Brielle Allison

Brielle Allison

“Coronavirus” is the name of an illness that has sparked global panic. As a respiratory illness, coronavirus is easily spread between humans. Infection and death tolls continue to increase as the virus spreads from China to over twenty other countries across the globe. 

Below are the main things to know about the virus. 

Where did coronavirus originate?

Coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and recognized by Chinese authorities on Dec. 31, 2019. 

What is coronavirus? 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronavirus is a part of a group of viruses found in animals and humans that are known to have caused illnesses ranging from the common cold to severe diseases. 

The current coronavirus is a ‘novel’ coronavirus, or a coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans.

It was previously named 2019-nCoV to signify that it was a new coronavirus, but that was a temporary moniker. On Feb. 12, the WHO officially named it COVID-19.

Gaither High School’s biology teacher Ettore Minutillo explained the scientific aspects of the virus, including why humans are now susceptible to catching it. 

“Coronavirus is a variant of a virus that already existed. The main part of the virus that houses the DNA is the same as it was before. But the outside of it has mutated, and when that happens they [coronaviruses] gain access to cells they couldn’t access before. It’s just like how changing your ID will allow you to go places you haven’t before. It’s changing the actual identifier on the cell and its giving it access to things it didn’t before – now all of a sudden it can affect humans,” Minutillo said. 

How does COVID-19 spread? 

According to the WHO, the new coronavirus has been classified as a ‘respiratory illness’ which spreads through contact with an infected person’s respiratory droplets. For example, a person’s coughing or sneezing can spread the coronavirus. 

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus? 

The main effects of the coronavirus are fever, cough and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, headache or general feeling of being unwell. 

Minutillo explained that COVID-19 is like having a ‘full-force’ version of the flu.

“No one’s ever had it [coronavirus] before, so no one’s immune system is prepared for it. Which means if you catch it, you have to take the ‘full-force punch’ of that illness because your body didn’t have a head start, like it would if you had it before or had gotten a vaccine, like the flu,” Minutillo said. 

COVID-19 can also develop into lower-respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis, and at its worst, be a fatal illness. 

Who is at risk? 

Technically, everyone is at risk of getting the virus. However, according to the WHO, people with pre-existing medical conditions and compromised immune systems are at a higher risk of contracting the illness and experiencing severe or fatal effects. 

The WHO risk assessment for China is labeled as “very high.” The risk assessment for the regional level and global level is now also labeled as “very high”, after previously being labeled as “high”. 

Is there a vaccine for COVID-19?

Currently, there are no specific medicines to prevent or treat COVID-19, but there is a vaccine is in development. Researchers are developing diagnostic tests to detect the infection, and health officials believe that a candidate vaccine should be ready for testing in as little as two months. 

How can I prevent myself from getting COVID-19? 

Because there are no preventative medicines, the WHO recommends that people take extra care of their personal health by:

  • washing hands frequently, and properly (use hot water and soap, washing for 30+ seconds)
  • maintaining social distancing, especially with those who are coughing and sneezing
  • avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth
  • wearing a mask, especially in environments with many people in close proximity (such as airplanes) 

Where has COVID-19 spread to now?

As of Mar. 2, 64 countries across the globe reported cases of COVID-19, including the United States.

What are the current global effects of COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, as of Mar. 2, there have been 88,948 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the globe and 3,043 confirmed deaths. 

COVID-19 Close To Home

As of Mar. 2, 2020, there are 2 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Florida. One being a 20-year-old woman in Hillsborough County who recently traveled to Italy, and the other being a man in his 60’s in Manatee County, however officials are currently unsure of how he contracted the virus.