Practically overnight, the coronavirus has become the largest communal threat in the world. While scientists are scurrying to gain an understanding of this novel virus, there is great uncertainty about our future as we bide our time in lockdown. Will the world and life as we knew it ever be the same again? There is a lot of misinformation out there, so we thought a brief refresher might be helpful.
Coronaviruses constitute a large family of viruses that may cause illness in both animals and people. Not all coronaviruses can be transferred between animals and people, but those that can are called zoonotic viruses. The symptoms associated with these viruses are mostly respiratory in nature and may range from mild cold and flu symptoms to serious conditions. In 2003, the Serious Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) broke out in China, with a reported death toll of 700 people, and seems to have been transmitted from civet cats to people. In 2012, a coronavirus originating from camels spread to humans, causing the Middle-Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS); more than 800 deaths were recorded.
The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is the strain that caused the current pandemic and is highly contagious. Once infected, a person has the potential to develop Covid-19, a respiratory syndrome that starts with a mild cold- and flu-like symptoms, moving on to the lungs as the illness progresses. The incubation period of Covid-19 is typically 14 days, although symptoms may appear as early as five days after infection. SARS-CoV-2 first became known in December 2019, when an outbreak in Wuhan, China, was reported, and deaths started occurring from an unknown type of pneumonia. The disease spreads through human-to-human transmission on droplets infected with human fluid, both through touching and through the air; no vaccine is available yet.
Infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not synonymous with disease. The word ‘infection’ merely refers to the acquisition of the virus, but 75% of people who are infected do not develop Covid-19. However, all people infected with the disease are able to spread it.
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
We’ve been educated on how to minimize our exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus by frequent handwashing, social isolation, not touching our faces, and wearing a mask over our noses and mouths. But why does this virus affect some people badly, some only mildly, and others are not even aware that they are infected? The answer lies in the health of your immune system.
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