According to World Health Organization; Coronavirus (CoV) is a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
Over the last 70 years, scientists have found that coronavirus can infect dogs, cats, mice, rats, pigs, turkeys, horses and cattle. Sometimes, these animals can transmit coronaviruses to humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
Coronaviruses belong to the subfamily Coronavirinae in the family Coronaviridae. Different types of human coronaviruses vary in how severe the resulting disease becomes and how far they can spread.
Doctors currently recognize seven types of coronavirus that can infect humans.
Common types include:
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
In 2019, a dangerous new strain called SARS-CoV-2 started circulating, causing the disease COVID-19.
- Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth can disperse droplets into the air.
- Touching or shaking hands with a person who has the virus can pass the virus between individuals.
- Making contact with a surface or object that has the virus and then touching the nose, eyes, or mouth.
- Some animal coronaviruses may spread through contact with feces. However, it is unclear whether this also applies to human coronaviruses.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggest that several groups of people have the highest risk of developing complications due to COVID-19. These groups include:
- young children
- people aged 65 years or older
- women who are pregnant
Cold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from 2–4 days after a coronavirus infection and are typically mild. However, symptoms vary from person-to-person, and some forms of the virus can be fatal.
- Runny nose
- Fever in rare cases
- Sore throat
To prevent transmission, people should stay at home and rest while symptoms are active. They should also avoid close contact with other people.
Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief while coughing or sneezing can also help prevent transmission. It is important to dispose of any tissues after use and maintain hygiene around the home.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread also include;
- Regular hand washing.
- Covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
- Thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
- Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
- Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Maintain at least 1 and half metres (5 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
- Persons with persistent cough or sneezing should stay home or keep a social distance, but not mix in-crowd.
- Make sure you and people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene, meaning cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or into your sleeve at the bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
There is no cure, so treatments include self-care and over-the-counter medication. People can take several steps, including:
- Resting and avoiding overexertion
- Drinking enough water
- Avoiding smoking and smoky areas
- Taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen for pain and fever
- Using a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer