Before the beginning of 2020, many people had never heard the word “coronavirus.” But coronaviruses are not new. Researchers have been studying coronaviruses for decades. As COVID-19 appeared in 2019, lives changed forever. However, long before the World Health Organization announced the COVID-19 pandemic, coronaviruses had been making people sick in familiar ways, such as with the common cold. This episode discusses COVID-19, as well as all coronaviruses.
What Are Coronaviruses?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that usually cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold. However, three new coronaviruses have emerged from animal reservoirs over the past two decades to cause serious and widespread illness and death.
There are hundreds of coronaviruses, most of which circulate among such animals as pigs, camels, bats and cats. Sometimes those viruses jump to humans—called a spillover event—and can cause disease. Four of the seven known coronaviruses that sicken people cause only mild to moderate disease. Three can cause more serious, even fatal, disease. SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) emerged in November 2002 and caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). That virus disappeared by 2004. Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is caused by the MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Transmitted from an animal reservoir in camels, MERS was identified in September 2012 and continues to cause sporadic and localized outbreaks. The third novel coronavirus to emerge in this century is called SARS-CoV-2. It causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which emerged from China in December 2019 and was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. The COVID-19 is the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, Hubei province, China.
Symptoms of COVID-19
Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure:
- New loss of taste or smell
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Sore throat
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle pain
How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19
The symptoms that are currently being seen with COVID-19 are cough, fever, headache, new loss of taste or smell, repeated shaking with chills, sore throat, shortness of breath, and muscle pain. To help prevent the spread of germs, you should:
- Multiple times a day, wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if you have symptoms of acute respiratory illness.
- Stay home from work or school until you are free of fever, signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours and without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medications.
- Seek medical attention if you have reason to believe you have been exposed to coronavirus or influenza. Call your healthcare provider before visiting a healthcare facility.