What Is a Coronavirus?
The coronavirus is a big family of pathogens. Some of them cause mild illnesses like the common cold. Others can cause fatal infections. A coronavirus gets its name from how it looks. Under an electron microscope, these pathogens exhibit spikes that resemble the angles of a crown. There are many coronaviruses that only infect animals. Some evolve in their animal hosts to infect humans. The type that infects humans was first identified in the 1960s. Since then, seven human-infecting types of coronavirus have been identified, including 2019-nCoV, also known as Wuhan Coronavirus.
What Is Wuhan Coronavirus?
On Jan. 7, 2020, Chinese health authorities announced that they had isolated the virus spreading in Wuhan. This novel coronavirus was named 2019-nCoV, and was also called Wuhan coronavirus because the first infected people came from Wuhan City, Hubei Province in China, a city of more than 11 million people and a major transportation hub. This virus resembles other serious human coronavirus types MERS and SARS in that all belong to the “beta” subgrouping of virus. The CDC notes that MERS and SARS both began as infections in bats before mutating to infect humans.
What Are the Symptoms of Wuhan Coronavirus?
The symptoms of Wuhan virus illness resemble other respiratory infections. Infected people may experience coughing and fever, as well as shortness of breath. Some patients have had vomiting, diarrhea, and similar stomach symptoms. The most severe cases have caused pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and death. According to the CDC, some infected people have few or no symptoms, whereas others may be severely ill or die from the disease. Initial estimates suggest symptoms last between two and 14 days.
How Wuhan Coronavirus Spreads
Health experts widely agree that many infected patients had some association with a large live animal/seafood market in Wuhan City, suggesting the disease was first spread from animal-to-human contact. Human-to-human transfer was soon confirmed in China, Germany, and the United States. The first person to be infected within the United States was an Illinois man in his 60s. His wife became infected while traveling in Wuhan, China. The CDC says the full picture of how easily this virus can spread remains unclear.
How Is Wuhan Coronavirus Treated?
As a newly identified virus, 2019-nCoV has no specified treatment. Supportive care is the treatment; a large number of patients need hospitalization to obtain appropriate care. Work is underway to develop antiviral medications to combat the illness. Meanwhile the CDC says that health care workers should strive to treat the symptoms of an infection through supportive care. Researchers are also trying to develop a vaccine against the virus.
Is There a Vaccine for Wuhan Virus?
So far, no vaccine has been developed for this newly discovered virus. On Jan. 28, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that the National Institute of Health has begun to collaborate on the development of a Wuhan coronavirus vaccine. Early trials could begin in three months, but it will likely take a year or longer before a safe, proven vaccine can be released to the public, according to HHS officials. The National Health Commission in China is collaborating with various health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), to further study how severe and how contagious this virus may be. By sharing data and continuing to study the illness, health researchers worldwide hope to contribute to the development of a vaccine.
Is the Virus Likely to Mutate?
This is a class of virus that is known to mutate easily. Prior mutations led to the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak, in which a virus native to civet cats mutated to spread the illness to humans. In Saudi Arabia in 2012, a coronavirus that infected camels mutated to become infectious in humans, leading to the MERS outbreak. Currently, researchers have not discovered the original source of the Wuhan coronavirus, but they suspect it came from wild animals killed and sold for food.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
Based on advice gathered from previous coronavirus outbreaks, the WHO offers general guidance about how to prevent Wuhan virus infection:
- Keep your hands clean frequently with either soap and water or an alcohol-based rub
- Cover your mouth anytime you cough or sneeze. Throw away used tissues.
- Avoid spending time around people who have a fever or cough.
- If you show symptoms of Wuhan virus (cough, fever, shortness of breath), tell your doctor right away, and fill your doctor in on your recent travel history.
- If you visit an animal market where a coronavirus outbreak is suspected, avoid animals and any surfaces they may have touched.
- Make sure any animal product you use in meals is fully cooked. Handle raw meat carefully.
In addition, the CDC recommends you avoid visiting areas where there is an outbreak of this infection and to avoid any close contact with anyone who has visited the outbreak area or shows signs of the infection in the last 14 days
Coronavirus: What Happens When You Get Infected?
How Does Coronavirus Attack Your Body?
A virus infects your body by entering healthy cells. There, the invader makes copies of itself and multiplies throughout your body.
The new coronavirus latches its spiky surface proteins to receptors on healthy cells, especially those in your lungs.
Specifically, the viral proteins bust into cells through ACE2 receptors. Once inside, the coronavirus hijacks healthy cells and takes command. Eventually, it kills some of the healthy cells.
How Does Coronavirus Move Through Your Body?
COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, starts with droplets from an infected person’s cough, sneeze, or breath. They could be in the air or on a surface that you touch before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. That gives the virus a passage to the mucous membranes in your throat. Within 2 to 14 days, your immune system may respond with symptoms including:CONTINUE READING BELOW
- A cough
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Chills, sometimes with shaking
- Body aches
- A sore throat
- Loss of taste
- Loss of smell
The virus moves down your respiratory tract. That’s the airway that includes your mouth, nose, throat, and lungs. Your lower airways have more ACE2 receptors than the rest of your respiratory tract. So COVID-19 is more likely to go deeper than viruses like the common cold.
Your lungs might become inflamed, making it tough for you to breathe. This can lead to pneumonia, an infection of the tiny air sacs (called alveoli) inside your lungs where your blood exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide.
If your doctor does a CT scan of your chest, they’ll probably see shadows or patchy areas called “ground-glass opacity.”
For most people, the symptoms end with a cough and a fever. More than 8 in 10 cases are mild. But for some, the infection gets more severe. About 5 to 8 days after symptoms begin, they have shortness of breath (known as dyspnea). Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) begins a few days later.
ARDS can cause rapid breathing, a fast heart rate, dizziness, and sweating. It damages the tissues and blood vessels in your alveoli, causing debris to collect inside them. This makes it harder or even impossible for you to breathe.
Many people who get ARDS need help breathing from a machine called a ventilator.
As fluid collects in your lungs, they carry less oxygen to your blood. That means your blood may not supply your organs with enough oxygen to survive. This can cause your kidneys, lungs, and liver to shut down and stop working.
Not everyone who has COVID-19 has these serious complications. And not everyone needs medical care. But if your symptoms include trouble breathing, get help right away.NEWSLETTERStay Up-to-Date on COVID-19
What Else Does COVID-19 Do to Your Body?
Some people also have symptoms including:
- Liver problems or damage
- Heart problems
- Kidney damage
- Dangerous blood clots, including in their legs, lungs, and arteries. Some clots may cause a stroke.
Researchers are also looking into a few reports of skin rashes, including some reddish-purple spots on fingers or toes.
A few children and teens have been admitted to the hospital with an inflammatory syndrome that may be linked to the new coronavirus. Symptoms include a fever, rash, belly pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and heart problems. The syndrome, now being referred to as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C is similar to toxic shock or to Kawasaki disease, a condition in children that causes inflammation in blood vessels. We’re still learning about these cases.
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Coronavirus: Adults should take vitamin D, researchers say
The Government should immediately change recommendations for vitamin D supplements as a matter of urgency by urging all adults to take them during the coronavirus pandemic, according to scientists at Trinity College Dublin.
This follows evidence highlighting the association between vitamin D levels and mortality from Covid-19 produced by Dr Eamon Laird and Prof Rose Anne Kenny, who lead the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing.
They analysed European adult population studies completed since 1999 which measured vitamin D, and compared vitamin D and death rates from Covid-19.
The pivotal role of vitamin D in fighting viral infections is known but it can also “support the immune system through a number of immune pathways” involved in fighting Covid-19, they conclude in a study published in the Irish Medical Journal.
The correlation is so strong taking vitamin D should be advised immediately, Prof Kenny said. This was because vitamin D deficiency was common among those at risk of Covid-19 (particularly older people); there was no toxic risk from taking it at the recommended dosage level, and growing evidence of benefits.
Last week, scientists at Northwestern University in the US found those with severe vitamin D deficiency were twice as likely to experience Covid-19 complications.
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