What to Know About The Coronavirus

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What to Know About The Coronavirus

Brielle Allison

Brielle Allison

Brielle Allison

Brielle Allison

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“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 coronavirus 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 coronavirus. 

What are the symptoms of coronavirus? 

The main effects of 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 coronavirus 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. 

Coronavirus 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 labeled as “high.”

Is there a vaccine for coronavirus?

Currently, there are no specific medicines to prevent or treat coronavirus, 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 three months. 

How can I prevent myself from getting coronavirus? 

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

  • washing hands frequently
  • 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 coronavirus spread to now?

As of Feb. 13, 25 countries across the globe reported cases of coronavirus, including the United States.

What are the current global effects of coronavirus? 

According to the World Health Organization, as of Feb. 13, there have been 45,171 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,110 confirmed deaths.