What is COVID-19 and how is it different from SARS-CoV-2?
A coronavirus is a kind of virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses aren’t fatal, but some could be, which leads us to a type of coronavirus that has caused the current pandemic.
SARS-CoV-2 is one of seven types of coronavirus and it is the cause of the COVID-19 disease. COVID-19 causes respiratory tract infection, affecting the upper respiratory tract or, in worst cases, the lower respiratory tract. The spread of this virus happens the same way as other coronaviruses - human-to-human transmission.
Origins & Initial Reports of COVID-19
In a study by Dr Vineet Menachery published in 2016 about the emergence of SARS-CoV, the discovery of SARS-like virus clusters that bridge the gap between the epidemic strains and related precursor CoV strain HKU3 virus provided the best evidence for the emergence of SARS-CoV from Chinese horseshoe bats. This reported SARS-like virus that was discovered to be circulating in the bat population as early as 2015 was raised as a threat for a possible cross-species transmission that could lead to outbreaks in humans, and it did.
However, the virus wasn’t passed on directly from bats to humans. Studies show that it was passed into an intermediate host before it infected humans. In a report by Liu and his colleagues from the Guangdong Wildlife Rescue Center of China, they first detected the presence of a SARS-CoV-like coronavirus from lung samples of two dead Malayan pangolins in October 2019. The virus, which is referred to as Pangolin CoV, shows that it is 91.02% identical to SARS-CoV-2 at the whole genome level, making Pangolins a strong candidate as a host of the virus. Epidemiologists suspect that someone bought an infected pangolin at one of the wet markets in Wuhan and got infected from eating its meat, which started the chain of transmission.
A month later, the first case detected in humans happened on 17 November in Hubei Province in China, weeks before the Chinese government acknowledged the new virus. However, no official reports confirmed this. But in the official statements by the Chinese government, the first confirmed case was reported on 8 December. The authorities did not warn the public yet that the virus is highly contagious until 21 January. And it was only until 30 January that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern as it started to spread worldwide.
How does COVID-19 spread?
According to WHO, SARS-CoV-2—the virus that causes COVID-19—spreads primarily through human-to-human contact. People can catch COVID-19 if they breathe in small droplets from the nose or mouth of an infected person, which are expelled when coughing, sneezing, or speaking. These droplets can land on objects such as tables, doorknobs, and handrails. People can become infected when they touch their eyes, nose, and mouth after touching these objects. This is why many experts and governments have been pushing people to religiously wash their hands with soap and water or sanitize them with alcohol-based hand rub. Another way to prevent the spread of the disease is to wear face masks, which is now being strictly implemented in many countries.
Symptoms of COVID-19
People of all ages can contract the virus, but older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19. That’s why COVID-19 affects people in different ways - ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness.
Early symptoms, usually appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, are as follows:
- Dry cough
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste or smell
Some people may experience:
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
More serious symptoms include the following:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
Please seek medical attention for symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.
WebMD has created a COVID-19 Symptom Checker to see what to do about your symptoms and whether you should see a doctor
What are the preventive actions?
In order to reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19, WHO has given simple precautions that we can follow, and these are:
- Wash your hands with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based sanitizer. It would also be helpful to keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol with you if you must go out.
- Practice social distancing and stay at home as much as possible. If you must go out, stay at least 6 feet away from others and avoid slipstreams.
- Cover your mouth and nose in public with a face mask.
- Do not touch your face without sanitizing/washing your hands first.
- Regularly disinfect surfaces or objects you often touch.
Since the pandemic is still ongoing and we cannot predict yet when this will all end, it is important to keep yourself up to date with the latest information on the outbreak.
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Symptoms of Coronavirus. (2020, March 20). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 27, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html
Smith, M. W. (2020, April 3). COVID-19 Symptom Checker. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/coronavirus/coronavirus-assessment/default.htm
Liu, P., Chen, W., & Chen, J.-P. (2019). Viral Metagenomics Revealed Sendai Virus and Coronavirus Infection of Malayan Pangolins (Manis javanica). Viruses, 11(11), 979. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/v11110979
Zhang, T., Wu, Q., & Zhang, Z. (2020). Probable pangolin origin of SARS-CoV-2 associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. Current Biology.
Bazell, R. (2020, March 26). How Genetic Mutations Turned the Coronavirus Deadly. Nautilus. http://nautil.us/issue/83/intelligence/how-genetic-mutations-turned-the-coronavirus-deadly
Menachery, V. D., Yount Jr, B. L., Debbink, K., Agnihothram, S., Gralinski, L. E., Plante, J. A., ... & Randell, S. H. (2015). A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence. Nature medicine, 21(12), 1508.
Menachery, V. D., Yount, B. L., Sims, A. C., Debbink, K., Agnihothram, S. S., Gralinski, L. E., ... & Swanstrom, J. (2016). SARS-like WIV1-CoV poised for human emergence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(11), 3048-3053.