What is a Coronavirus?

A Coronavirus is named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. Corona is Latin for crown.

The Novel Coronavirus or CoVID-19 was first detected in Wuhan China in December of 2019. If this was discovered a month later we’d be calling it CoVID-20. CoVID-19 is a new strain of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The 2003 outbreak of SARS full name was SARS Coronavirus virus or SARS CoV, for this reason the new Coronavirus is also called SARS CoV2.

The coronavirus can infect both animals and people. It can cause infectious bronchitis in birds, hepatitis in mice, gastroenteritis in swine and can cause respiratory illness in humans that range from the common cold to lung lesions and pneumonia, leading to death.

Of the numerous Coronaviruses only 7 coronaviruses are known to cause disease in humans.

Four of the 7 coronaviruses most frequently cause symptoms of the common cold. Rarely, severe lower respiratory tract infections, including pneumonia, can occur, primarily in infants, older people, and the immunocompromised.

Three of the 7 coronaviruses cause much more severe, and sometimes fatal, respiratory infections in humans. These three coronaviruses and have caused major outbreaks of deadly pneumonia in the 21st century:

SARS-CoV2 / CoVID-19. The one we are dealing with now.

MERS-CoV was identified in 2012 as the cause of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

SARS-CoV was identified in 2002 as the cause of the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

How contagious is the virus?

It seems to spread very easily from person to person, especially in homes, hospitals and other confined spaces. The pathogen can travel through the air, enveloped in tiny respiratory droplets that are produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. Keeping a social distancing of 3 feet for normal speech up to 6 feet for coughing and sneezing. For more details about social distancing see Infection Control.

Not all is yet known about the infectiousness of CoVID-19, but it appears to spread much more easily than that of the 2003 SARS outbreak, but thankfully nowhere near as easily as common seasonal influenza. This is a good thing as the fatality rate is not yet know but it is believed to be about 3% whereas Influenza is about 1%, even so, seasonal Influenza is responsible for approximately 250,000 to 650,000 deaths globally every year.

What symptoms should I watch for?

Symptoms, which can take between 2 to 14 days to appear, include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Milder cases may resemble the flu minus the nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, or a bad cold, but people may be able to pass on the virus even before they develop symptoms.

How do I keep myself and others safe?

Avoid travel to countries with large concentrations of outbreak. Avoid travel all together as the enclosed vessel of travel (plane, train, boat) puts you at higher risk of coming into contact with someone who is infected. Avoid large gatherings. Use social distancing. Make a conscious effort to avoid touching your face. Wash your hands frequently and properly. Use Lysol wipes to wipe down high contact surface areas. Stay home if you’re sick. 

Who is at the greatest risk of an imminent mortal outcome?

Older adults – generally in the 60 years of age and over demographic.

People with heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, smokers, people with lung disease and/or COPD.

Where to find reliable sources of information:

www.who.int – The World Health Organization

www.cdc.gov – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

www.ccohs.ca – Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

www.publichealthontario.ca – Public Health Ontario

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