Coronavirus is a family name representing a group of viruses that have the potential of causing infectious diseases in mammals and birds. In human beings, this family of viruses is responsible for the common cold and is usually spread through the air from infected persons to healthy ones. In this essay, the focus is on understanding the ins and outs of this family of viruses from the perspective of history, symptoms, and the recent world encounters with coronaviruses.
First detailed in the 1960s, the coronavirus derives its name from a unique “crown” of sugary-proteins which protrude the casing around the virus’s particle. The genetic makeup of this particle is highly unique in that it has the longest genome with a sole strand of the nucleic acid being approximately 32,000 bases long. This is the longest single strand to ever been discovered amongst the RNA-based viruses. When it comes to the genus, this family has got four main groups; Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta coronaviruses. The first two usually affect mammals, including humans and bats, while the third one affects birds and poultry. The delta coronavirus can affect both mammals and birds. All these four groups of coronavirus will have varied symptoms on different species but of major interest in this article is on human beings.
World Health Organization (WHO) notes that the coronavirus patients will depict symptoms of fever, cold, runny nose, shortness of breath, and sore throat. These symptoms are mild but in exacerbated cases, they can result in pneumonia, kidney failure, asthma, and even death. However, the symptoms will vary from one person to another with some viruses being highly lethal. Currently, and also in the recent past, coronaviruses have had devastating effects on public health with the recent cases being on Wuhan coronavirus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus(MERS).
Wuhan coronavirus was first reported in the Wuhan city back in December 2019. The exact cause of this outbreak has not yet been established although some experts say that there is a likelihood that the virus originated from bats. At the time of writing this article, the mortality rate was around 1% with China recording 1,100 death cases and the efforts to contain the virus still in progress. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, well known as SARS, was another coronavirus outbreak recorded in 2003. Although the virus has already been contained, its causes have not yet been established to date. MERS was another coronavirus outbreak that occurred in Saudi Arabia back in the year 2012. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the dromedary camels were the intermediary host of this virus which led to the death of 860 people.
As seen from the above three outbreaks, coronavirus seems to be migrating from animals to humans. Therefore, there is a need to come up with effective mechanisms that will control the interaction between wildlife and people. This way, it will be possible to mitigate the spread of zoonotic pathogens as is the case with coronavirus.
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