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Science and Technology -Health

Decoding Coronavirus

Introduction

In December 2019, Wuhan Municipal Health Commission, China, reported a number of cases of pneumonia in Wuhan, Hubei Province. At first instance, none of us in the world knew that these pneumonia cases led to a Global Pandemic which has affected more than 50,00,000 people all over the world and has resulted in more than 3,00,000 deaths. The Wuhan virus is a new strain of Coronavirus which can cause fever, cough, breathing difficulties, pneumonia and even death in humans. It is believed to have originated in a seafood market in Wuhan that was involved in the illegal sale of wildlife.  The source of Wuhan infection was identified as a novel coronavirus, related to those that had caused outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) from 2002-2004 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012.

As the outbreak continues to spread outside China, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, which is also called as Global Emergency.

What do you mean by Coronavirus?

In 1965, scientists DJ Tyrrell and ML Bynoe were the first ones to identify a human coronavirus, which they isolated from the nasal washing of a male child who had symptoms of the common cold. They termed the strain B814 and later in 1968 the term “coronavirus” was accepted.

Coronavirus is named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. ‘Corona’ in Latin means halo or crown. Till date, scientists have identified six types of coronavirus. These are a specific family of viruses, causing less-severe damage, such as the common cold and others causing respiratory and intestinal diseases.

There are four common disease-causing coronaviruses, while the two other are the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus, both of which can cause severe respiratory diseases.

Coronavirus is zoonotic, which means that they can be transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans.

In animals, coronaviruses can cause diarrhoea in cows and pigs and upper respiratory tract disease in chickens. In 1937, the first infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) was found that caused respiratory disease in chickens, which was a type of coronaviruses.

2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

It is a virus identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. It is a new strain of the coronavirus that has not been identified previously is called a novel coronavirus (nCov). It is an infectious disease caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a virus closely related to the SARS virus. The 2019-nCov has been given the official name as COVID-19.

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