What is it?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that were discovered in the 1960s but whose origin is still unknown. Its different types cause different diseases, from a cold to a severe respiratory syndrome (a severe form of pneumonia).
Much of the coronaviruses are not dangerous and can be treated effectively. In fact, most people get a coronavirus at some time in their life, usually during their childhood. Although they are more frequent in autumn or winter, they can be acquired at any time of the year.
The coronavirus owes its name to the appearance it presents since it’s very similar to a crown or a halo. It is a type of virus present in both humans and animals.
In recent years, three major epidemic outbreaks caused by coronaviruses have been described:
SARS-CoV: The acute and severe respiratory syndrome (SARS, also known as SARS and SARS) began in November 2002 in China, affected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries and caused more than 700 deaths. The mortality of SARS-Cov has been estimated at approximately 10%.
MERS-CoV: The coronavirus that causes the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was first detected in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. More than 2,400 cases of infection were reported in October 2019 in different countries, with more than 800 deaths. Lethality is, therefore, 35%.
2019nCoV: At the end of December 2019, the first cases of a new coronavirus were
Coronaviruses are transmitted in a limited way among humans, but to date, the origin of these viruses is unknown. In any case, it is known that certain animals, such as bats, act as reservoirs.
As in other viruses that cause pneumonia, when transmitted in humans, infection is usually caused by the respiratory route, through the respiratory droplets that people produce when they cough, sneeze or speak.
Everything indicates that the new coronavirus, 2019nCoV, also known as Wuhan coronavirus, has an animal origin. In fact, the first cases have been related to a live animal market in the city of Wuhan in China.
For MERS, camels are likely to be essential holders of this type of coronavirus and an animal source of infection to humans, as specified by the World Health Organization in its descriptive note on the disease. However, the specific role of camels in the transmission of the virus, also the exact route or routes of transmission are unknown.
In origin, the MERS-CoV coronavirus is a zoonotic virus that is transmitted from animals to people. As can be seen from the analysis of several of its genomes, it’s believed that the virus originated in bats then was transmitted to camels at some point in the distant past.
It’s also believed that the SARS coronavirus originated in bats, subsequently jumping to some other species of a small mammal, such as civet, and finally to humans.
In general, the main symptoms of coronavirus infections are usually:
Secretion and runny nose.
Sore throat and headache.
Chills and malaise.
Shortness of breath (breathlessness)
The clinical spectrum of this type of infection varies from the absence of symptoms to mild or acute respiratory symptoms. This typology usually involves cough, fever, and breathing difficulties. It’s common for pneumonia, and, in the case of MERS, gastrointestinal symptoms, especially diarrhea, can also be recorded.
As with the influenza virus, the most severe symptoms (and the highest mortality) were recorded in the elderly and those with immunosuppression or chronic diseases such as diabetes, some types of cancer, or chronic lung disease. In extreme cases, it can cause respiratory failure.
To date, no vaccine or specific treatment is available to combat coronavirus infection.
Maintaining basic hygiene is the most effective way to avoid contracting this virus in places where there is a higher risk of transmission, mainly in areas of the planet where cases have been recorded. It is convenient to wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with people already infected, especially protecting eyes, nose, and mouth. Those who may be in contact with potentially affected parties are advised to wear masks and use handkerchiefs to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
When MERS-Cov emerged, it was reported that products of animal origin properly processed by cooking or pasteurization don’t pose any risk of infection, but should be handled with care to avoid contamination by contact with raw products. Camel meat and milk may continue to be consumed after pasteurization, cooking, or other heat treatments; However, its fresh consumption should be discarded.
These precautions should be followed, especially by those who have diabetes, renal insufficiency, chronic pneumopathy or immunosuppression, since they are more at risk of serious disease in case of infection with coronavirus.
In human coronaviruses, the severity can vary substantially between one type and another:
This variant of coronavirus corresponds to types 229E and OC43, which cause the common symptoms of a cold. However, in the most severe cases, they can also cause pneumonia in the elderly or neonates.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
It’s a serious form of pneumonia. It causes respiratory distress and fever over 38 degrees. The 2002 outbreak spread throughout the world, although its frequency has always been greater in East Asia.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)
It causes severe respiratory problems, in addition to fever, cough, and shortness of breath, although at first, it can be asymptomatic. In more severe cases, bloody expectoration, diarrhea, and vomiting also occur. It had its first outbreak in 2012, and since then, many cases have been reported in the Middle East, although it has also reached Europe and the United States.
Wuhan coronavirus (2019nCoV)
The new coronavirus detected in late 2019 in China shows a genetic sequence that matches that of SARS by 80%. However, at first, it seems less virulent and with significantly lower mortality.
Coronaviruses can also appear in animals. Some of the most frequent are canine and feline coronaviruses.
To determine if the discomfort suffered by a patient comes from a simple cold or a coronavirus, the doctor can perform a nose and throat examination, or even a blood test.
In cases of coronavirus SARS, a chest tomography is usually performed to determine the symptoms of pneumonia, as well as other blood coagulation tests, biochemical analysis, and a blood count. Antibody tests and SARS virus isolation are also performed.
For cases of MERS coronavirus, an evaluation is usually carried out for those who have symptoms and who may be prone to the virus.
The control of the temperature (with thermal cameras and digital thermometers) of people arriving at an airport from affected areas has been one of the first measures that have been put in place to detect possible cases of Wuhan’s coronavirus, as It was made with the previous shoots. Questionnaires are also made to travelers; In case of suspicion, they are subjected to evaluation and, where appropriate, transferred to health centers.
There is no vaccine against the human coronavirus that causes a cold, but milder cases can be overcome by following the same steps as a common cold. It doesn’t require medical intervention; simply wash your hands frequently, rest, and drink plenty of fluids. Symptoms will disappear within a few days. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can also be taken to relieve sore throats or fever.
In cases of coronavirus SRAS, MERS CoV, and 2019nCoV, hospital admission is usually convenient. Antivirals, high doses of steroids are given to reduce pulmonary inflammation and respiratory support with oxygen; Sometimes, you may need antibiotics, but only if there are supervening bacterial infections, that is, superinfection.
In summary, these types of respiratory infections are treated with antiviral and supportive measures. The treatment is usually adapted according to the severity of the patient, since there are cases in which severe pneumonia occurs, but in others the manifestations are mild.