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What is the Coronavirus?


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What is the Coronavirus?

The coronavirus belongs to a large family of viruses identified as the cause of certain animal diseases and can cause disease in humans, too. The name 'coronavirus' refers to their resemblance to a crown (corona in Latin) when viewed in an electron microscope. The severity of human illness depends on the particular virus strand of this family and ranges between mild ailment, such as a cold, up to a serious disease that can negatively affect the lungs and lead to multiple organ failure, such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

What is the novel coronavirus?

The novel coronavirus had not been previously identified as a cause of disease in humans. In December 2019, it was identified as the pathogen causing a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, Hubei province, central mainland China, and later on, it was found to spread to all provinces of mainland China as well as internationally. In terms of its genetic makeup, the SARS virus, which was the cause of severe morbidity in 2003/4, is the most similar to the novel virus in China among all other coronaviruses that cause human morbidity.

On 11.2.20, the World Health Organization decided on an official name for the virus - SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes - COVID-19.

How is the novel coronavirus transmitted to humans?

The vast majority of the index patients worked or visited Wuhan's live animal and seafood market. This is why it was thought that there was animal-to-person spread. The animal causing the infection has not been identified with certainty. Person-to-person spread of the virus has been identified; infection probably occurs upon exposure to respiratory secretions when sneezing or coughing. How contagious the infection is remains unclear, but it appears to be like the flu. People can most likely infect others before symptoms appear - this is known to occur in other viral infections.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of the infection caused by the novel coronavirus are similar to those of influenza: fever, cough, shortness of breath, and respiratory distress.

In a medical evaluation, it is not possible to distinguish between a coronavirus infection and other respiratory diseases.

The infection might lead to acute pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), renal failure and can be fatal. The percentage of severe cases is not yet known.

How severe is the 2019 corona illness?

The clinical knowledge concerning the new disease is not yet complete. The data coming out of mainland China indicate that the illness is mild in most cases. Up to 20% of the confirmed patients develop complications and the mortality rate is approximately 2% of the patients. It is most probable that not all those infected in China had a medical evaluation, and that some have not been diagnosed. It is not clear what the risk factors of a severe illness are. Currently, available information suggests that older adults and people with a weak immune system or chronic medical condition, such as diabetes or a cardiovascular disease, may be at risk for more severe illness.

How is the Coronavirus treated?

There is currently no specific treatment for the novel coronavirus infection. People infected with the coronavirus receive supportive care; medical care is given according to the patient's medical condition.

As yet, there is no vaccine, but countries are working on a virus, such as Israel.

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