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The Coronaviruses

Updated on March 2, 2020
harrynielsen profile image

Science has always fascinated me. This includes not only the ecological sciences, which I studied in school, but other endeavors, as well.

The Crown Virus

The coronavirus was named for its crown-like protein appendages that protrude from the core of the ball-shaped virus. In Latin, Corona simply means "crown".
The coronavirus was named for its crown-like protein appendages that protrude from the core of the ball-shaped virus. In Latin, Corona simply means "crown". | Source

The Corona Virus (the Crown-shaped Virus)

Coronaviruses were first observed back in the 60s, when medical scientists were studying an infectious bronchitis found in chickens. Soon thereafter, similar viruses were found in human patients suffering from a cold. Since then, several more virulent types of disease-causing coronaviruses have been identified.

The most important are MERS-CoV (MERS coronavirus) which causes MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome), SARS-CoV (SARS coronavirus), which causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and most recently, SARS-CoV-2, which is the pathogen behind the most-recent coronavirus disease, COVID-19.

Please note that all CoV shorthand is used to describe a type of virus. Also, the 19 numeral in COVID-19 refers to the year of discovery, 2019.

Coronavirus Disease Prevention in Hong Kong

Travelers wearing face masks in Hong Kong West Kowloon Station
Travelers wearing face masks in Hong Kong West Kowloon Station | Source

Coronavirus in the News

When following news updates on the latest viral outbreak (2020), you will usually see or hear, the term coronavirus. This is simply a reference to the disease, caused by a newly discovered virus (SARS-CoV-2), which is behind the mass infections, currently plaguing places like China, South Korea and Iran. Just to make things a little confusing, the mainstream press may also use the word, coronavirus, to describe the virus, infecting the human population and causing the disease.

Worldwide Map of SARS Fatalities

Though originating in China, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome)  outbreak of 2002-2003 caused deaths worldwide
Though originating in China, the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak of 2002-2003 caused deaths worldwide | Source

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, better known as SARS, was the first of several viral respiratory ailments linked to the coronaviruses. This outbreak occurred in 2002-2003. Basically, the spread of disease occurred mostly in Southeast Asia with southern China and Hong Kong receiving the most cases. For some strange reason, Canada recorded 43 deaths. Overall around 8,000 were infected, while of those 8,000, 774 people perished in the outbreak. Since 2004, there have been no cases reported, in China, or anywhere else in the world.

Recently, the genetic reservoir for this pneumonia-like disease was discovered to be several species of horseshoe bats found in one province of China (Yunan). There was also an intermediate host for this disease. The culprit in this case was the civet cat, a primitive feline that can be found all across Southeast Asia. Obviously, human to human transmission occurred later on, resulting in infections in such faraway places as South Africa and France.

One of Many Hosts

The dromedary camel is the classic beast of burden, associated with the desert caravans of the Middle East. The animal is also the main host for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)
The dromedary camel is the classic beast of burden, associated with the desert caravans of the Middle East. The animal is also the main host for Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) | Source

MERS - Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome

MERS or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome was first observed in the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. The virus is associated with camels and has been known to exist in the nations of Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Yemen. Like many of the diseases caused by coronavirus infection, the illness first appears as something resembling a cold, but may develop into more serious respiratory ailments, including pneumonia. As of November 2019, roughly 2400 have been infected with over 800 deaths. The mortality rate is about 33%, which is relatively high for a virus infection. Fortunately, MERS does not appear to be as contagious, as many other virus-caused ailments.

A virus of the coronavirus type can be found in the Egyptian Tomb bat of the Arabian peninsula. Furthermore, this bat is believed to be the natural reservoir for the MERS virus, even though the MERS coronavirus seems quite capable of surviving for long periods in camels.

The Lowdown on MERS

The Spread of MERS

Fortunately, for those who live and visit the Arabian peninsula, MERS is not a widespread medical problem, though it should be kept in mind that the respiratory ailment can be fatal. For the most part, close contact with camels or someone who works with these animals are the most likely point of transmission. And unlike SARS, MERS is still active on the Arabian peninsula, though infections today are uncommon.

Bats in Flight

Bats are beneficial in that they consume enormous amounts of insects. But they also harbor dangerous pathogens, such as rabies and several types of coronavirus.
Bats are beneficial in that they consume enormous amounts of insects. But they also harbor dangerous pathogens, such as rabies and several types of coronavirus. | Source

COVID-19

In December 2019, doctors in Wuhan, China suddenly became overwhelmed with a viral outbreak that had a strange resemblance to the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003. The virus was so similar to the SARS virus that the scientific notation for the new discovery was the same, except for the numeral 2 added to the end. Compare SARS-CoV to SARS-CoV-2 and you can easily see the difference.

Next came the task of naming the disease, which in modern times falls upon the World Health Organization, better known as WHO. The official name is now COVID-19. The longhand version would read as coronavirus disease 2019 with the last four numerals referring to the year of discovery..


Wuhan Market Closed

In January 2020 the vastly popular seafood and animal market in Wuhan was closed by Chinese health authorities.
In January 2020 the vastly popular seafood and animal market in Wuhan was closed by Chinese health authorities. | Source

What's Happening with COVID-19

As the new year, 2020 approached, a new coronavirus infection was traveling through the sprawling city of Wuhan, China. Then as the Roman calendar switched to 2020, the disease began spreading like wildfire. Before the Chinese health officials got the outbreak under control, almost 75,000 were infected and over 2,000 people had died. During the month of February, the disease has spread to more than 40 countries. So far, fatalities outside of China, are slight, but the rising toll in Iran, Italy and South Korea are troubling, raising the possibilities of a worldwide pandemic in the making.

Intermediaries

In just about all cases of coronavirus transmission from bats to humans an intermediate animal seems to be necessary. In the case of the most recent coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the pangolin seems to be the middle link.
In just about all cases of coronavirus transmission from bats to humans an intermediate animal seems to be necessary. In the case of the most recent coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19), the pangolin seems to be the middle link. | Source

Coronaviruses and Bats

Since their discovery in the 1960s, many of the coronaviruses have been associated with bats. Overall, bats are extremely beneficial animals that consume a huge amount of insects. Still, it is important to note that they also harbor numerous disease pathogens, including the coronavirus. Furthermore, it is believed that the viral strand of all three of the major infectious diseases are caused by coronaviruses, MERS, SARS and COVID-19 are all flu-like diseases that may have originated from local bat populations in the Arabian Peninsula or China.

Dangerous Wet Markets

For years, so-called Chinese "wet markets" have caused much concern among health officials, as places of disease infection.
For years, so-called Chinese "wet markets" have caused much concern among health officials, as places of disease infection. | Source

The Wuhan Seafood and Wildlife Market

Since the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan and China has become international news, much interest has centered on this popular market, as the original source of the outbreak. Further investigation and research has suggested that the market is probably a place where the disease was able to multiply and spread, but the original point of infection remains a mystery, even though it probably occurred some place quite close in proximity to the city of Wuhan.

The Coronaviruses

Sources

https://www.who.int/emergencies/mers-cov/en/

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/mers/index.html

https://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/3047238/why-wild-animals-are-key-ingredient-chinas-coronavirus-outbreak

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronavirus

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/types.html


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Harry Nielsen

Comments

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    • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

      Harry Nielsen 

      17 months ago from Durango, Colorado

      For sure, and during the 24 hour period since you posted the number of cases have gone up.

    • justthemessenger profile image

      James C Moore 

      17 months ago from Joliet, IL

      Very informative. This outbreak just show how small the world is. What started in China wrecks havoc all over particularly Italy.

    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 

      17 months ago from New Jersey

      A good article about coronavirus. Some strains also cause the common cold. I have a feeling that when you get a really nasty cold (as some are definitely worse than others) that a strain of coronavirus might be the cause.

      This new COVID19 strain is definitely concerning given how easily it spreads.

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