You should know this about the coronavirus
Coronavirus is a group of viruses that usually cause a mild cold. Some variants can also cause more serious illness, which is the case with this year’s virus. Here we take a closer look at the virus, symptoms and what can be done for preventive purposes.
Why is it called coronavirus?
Coronavirus has been named after its appearance, as seen in an electron microscope. The virus has a membrane with small protruding spines, which may be reminiscent of the outermost layer of the sun’s atmosphere; corona, or in English: corona.
Started in China
The outbreak began in the million-inhabitant city of Wuhan in Hubei Province, central China, in December 2019, and on January 7 this year, the virus was identified by Chinese health authorities. The first cases of illness were discovered in people who had been staying in the food market Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in the city, a market with seafood and various live animals.
The infection was therefore first thought to be a zoonotic disease, which infects from animals to humans. Recent cases have shown that even people who have not had contact with animals are infected, and it seems that the virus is infected between people.
What is coronavirus?
After rhinovirus, coronavirus is the most common cause of colds and can account for up to a third of all cases. Some coronavirus variants can also cause serious respiratory tract infections. Some serious variants are SARS, which we saw a serious outbreak of 2003, and MERS, whose outbreak came in 2013 and is still ongoing in the Middle East. 10 percent of those severely affected by SARS died and a full 35 percent of those affected by MERS died.
In addition to colds, the new coronavirus can also cause respiratory tract infections in humans. However, most people infected get a mild respiratory infection. A few suffer from pneumonia. The risk of dying from lung failure caused by the virus is estimated to be less than 1 percent.
Where does the virus come from?
It is believed that the virus comes from bats. Bats do not become very ill from the viruses we know of, but they remain healthy carriers throughout life. Bats can carry 117 different viruses and 60 of them can cause serious illness in humans. It is not uncommon to find serious, deadly viruses, such as both Ebola (bleeding fever disease) and rabies (“crazy dog” infection) in bats.
Of the sick, about 2 percent have so far died in this year’s outbreak of coronavirus, in many cases, it has occurred in connection with other underlying diseases. This applies mainly to the elderly and people with a weak immune system. To compare, about 1.7 per 1,000 people die from regular flu each year.
The disease is now contagious between people and both hospital staff and others who have had close contact with the sick have been infected. More cases are reported all the time from other areas in China, South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Iran, but also from other countries. Spain, including the Costa del Sol, and also reported on infected persons.
Because of the rapid spread of the virus, the WHO has declared the outbreak as a “serious incident of importance to international public health”.
Will the virus “mutate”?
There is some talk that the virus can “mutate”. This means that the smallest building blocks of the virus’s genetic mass change, and this is something that can change the virus’s properties. The most common is that the mutated virus is not functional, sometimes it becomes “kinder”, creates less disease and provides immunological protection.
There are theories that the virus can become more dangerous in “mutation”, however, this has not happened in previous coronaviruses – the SARS type disappeared completely after nine months. In all major outbreaks of viruses that cause respiratory tract infections, mutations have made the virus less and less dangerous.
Then the virus is infected
The new coronavirus infects in the same way as cold and flu, ie through drip and contact infection:
Through the air: eg by a sick person coughing and sneezing and you breathe in the virus or it comes into contact with mucous membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth.
Through direct contact: if a sick person has the virus on their hands and has physical contact with others.
By objects: The virus can also be transmitted indirectly if a sick person, for example, coughs on an object or has the virus on his hands and touches an object.
The symptoms of the disease are as with other respiratory infections, such as cough, fever, sore throat, chest pain and difficulty breathing.
There is no safe information on incubation time, that is, the time from infection to symptoms, but it is estimated to be between 2-14 days.
The new coronavirus leads to respiratory tract infections and can cause anything from mild symptoms to more serious illnesses. Fever has been reported to be a common symptom of infection. Sore throat has been reported in people with mild illness. Some have been diagnosed with pneumonia with difficulty breathing and/or coughing. Severe lung failure and deaths occur. Information on risk factors in patients is still limited, but, as mentioned earlier, serious illness and death are most commonly reported in the elderly and people with underlying diseases.
If you have visited an area with an outbreak of infection or have been in close contact with a person who has a confirmed illness, you are advised to call a doctor for advice and time for examination, simply because necessary precautions such as isolation can be adopted so that the infection is not spread to others in a physical meeting.
How do you protect yourself from infection?
The disease is transmitted as in the case of cold and flu by transmitting viruses from the respiratory tract of a sick person. Good habits to protect against cough and good hand hygiene reduce the risk of getting respiratory infections, including infections with coronavirus.
- Keep at least 1-meter distance for people with symptoms of respiratory problems.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and lukewarm water.
- Hand disinfection is an option if you cannot wash your hands.
Cough with consideration. Use a paper handkerchief to cough or sneeze in, and discard the paper after use. If you do not have a handkerchief, the alternative is to cough in the elbow – never in your hands.
A respiratory mask is not necessary for healthy persons. “People who use a respirator more often touch the face – something that can increase the risk of infection,” says the National Institute of Public Health.
It is worked on vaccine
At the time of writing, there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus. But positive news is that scientists have recently succeeded in cultivating the virus in a laboratory-based on a sample from a patient.