Coronavirus – What is it? 31st January 2020 – Posted in: Epidemic, Infections, Virus – Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Coronavirus is a new strain of the respiratory virus that consists of a large family of viruses. The virus causes an illness that ranges from the common cold to more severe Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

Coronavirus is the largest group of viruses that belong to the Nidovirales order, which include Coronaviridae, Arteriviridae, and Roniviridae families. Coronaviridae has two subfamilies that include orthocoronavirinae and Letovirinae. The coronavirus utilizes peptidases as their cellular receptors to gain entry into a host cell. The virus is enveloped with a single-stranded positive-sense RNA genome. The genomes encode a variety of structural, non-structural, and accessory proteins. Coronavirus causes respiratory and enteric diseases in humans and animals respectively. Initially, coronavirus was thought to cause agriculturally important diseases in animals and the common cold in humans.

In 2002, China reported severe cases of acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). The outbreak lasted for 8 months with confirmed 8098 human cases. In 2012, another highly pathogenic human coronavirus emerged, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. MERS-CoV continues to cause outbreaks with some being fatal.

The majority of human and animal coronavirus seem to have their origin in a variety of bat species. Previous studies on the source of the virus in China suggested that the Himalayan civets and raccoon dogs were the most likely hosts responsible for human transmission. The research also found that bats are the original animal reservoir hosts of SARS-CoV isolates in Chinese horseshoe bat. However, the exact mechanism by which the zoonotic transmission event to humans occurs is still unclear.

The first case of coronavirus was reported on December 31, 2019. The World Health Organization China Office heard of a number of pneumonia cases caused by an unknown virus in Wuhan, Hubei Province, Eastern China. Although the disease has a high prevalence in China, it has spread as far as the US, France, Australia, Japan, Canada, and South Korea.

Wuhan seafood market in China

It appears that the virus originated from a Wuhan seafood market in China, where wild animals, including rabbits, birds, marmots, and bats as well as snakes are sold. The first people to be infected were the stallholders, therefore, it is believed the virus jumped from the animals to humans through contact and it is more likely it came from bats. Virologists from the Wuhan Institute for Virology released details indicating that the new coronavirus genetic makeup is 96% identical to that of coronavirus found in bats which were also the original source of SARS.

Live map

According to the New York Times, 30th January 2020, approximately 170 people have died as a result of coronavirus. Additionally, 7,711 cases have been confirmed though the number continues to rise, especially in Hubei Province the center of the outbreak. Currently, all of China`s provinces and territories have now been touched by the outbreak, for instance, Japan with 11 cases, Singapore 10, Taiwan 8, Hong Kong 10, Australia 7, Malaysia 7, Germany 4. There are no reports of death outside China.

Coronaviruses 004 lores

On January 7, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) identified a new virus, the novel virus from the family of coronavirus that includes SARS and the common cold. They named the virus Covid-19 (old 2019-nCoV). The coronavirus is common and spread through

  • Air by coughing and sneezing,
  • Close personal contact like touching or shaking hands with infected persons
  • Touching objects or surfaces with the virus, then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes before washing hands
  • Fecal contamination


The human coronavirus causes mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses such as the common cold and lower respiratory tract illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Other symptoms include

  • Running nose
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties
  • In severe cases acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, or even death.



Laboratory tests are done on respiratory specimens and serum to detect human coronavirus in case of severe disease or suspicion of having MERS.

How to take care of hygiene?

To prevent the spread of infections it is recommended

  • To wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • To cover the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
  • To avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Stay at home when sick
  • To cook meat and eggs thoroughly
  • To avoid close contact with people showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing

What to do to avoid the spread of infections?

  • Avoid unnecessary travel to areas or countries with coronavirus outbreak
  • Avoid contact with people with symptoms similar to those of coronavirus
  • Discuss travel to countries or areas with an outbreak with their health care providers
  • Avoid animal markets
  • Avoid animals and products that come from animals such as uncooked meat
  • Seek medical care immediately after visiting areas with an outbreak and you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty in breathing
  • Avoid traveling while sick

Treatment / Interventions

Currently, there is no specific treatment recommended for 2019-nCoV infection. However, patients are receiving supportive care to relieve symptoms or to support vital organ function.  In addition, recognizing and sorting patients with the virus, implementing infection prevention measures, early monitoring, collecting specimens for laboratory diagnosis, and prevention of complications.


According to WHO, the strategic objective in response to intervention includes, to limit human-to-human contact and to reduce secondary infections among close contacts and health care workers. To identify and isolate persons suspected to have the virus, providing optimal care for infected patients, communicating event information to all communities to counter misinformation, and partnering with other sectors to minimize the social and economic impact.


Banerjee, A., Kulcsar, K., Misra, V., Frieman, M., & Mossman, K. (2019). Bats and Coronaviruses. Viruses, 11(1), 41. doi:10.3390/v11010041

CDC. (2020). 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak information. Retrieved from

Fehr, A. R., & Perlman, S. (2015). Coronaviruses: an overview of their replication and pathogenesis. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.), 1282, 1–23. doi:10.1007/978-1-4939-2438-7_1

Reynolds, M. (2020, January 29). How China`s coronavirus virus started, explained. Retrieved from

The New York Times. (2020). Coronavirus live updates. Retrieved from

VOA News. (202, January 27). Health: Coronavirus prevention tips. Retrieved from

WHO. (2020). Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Retrieved from