The Science Behind the Coronavirus

Vivian De Waart

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Almost everybody is aware of the Coronavirus outbreak and the pandemic it has caused. The Coronavirus was likely picked up from a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Since then over 14,000 cases have been detected in mainly China, but several other cases were also found in other parts of Asia, Australia, France, and the United States. Of all the cases, the death toll has risen to above an estimated 900 according to CNN.

Where does it come from?

Although this information has become public knowledge, many people are unaware of the science behind the virus. Scientists have studied the cause of the first known case, which most likely originated from a bat, but it has not yet been confirmed. 

“All the coronaviruses are related to bats,” said Dr. Rosette Manio. “Because it started in the wet seafood market of Wuhan, they believe it was transmitted through a wet zoonosis.”

In a new study by The Lancet, scientists have analyzed ten genome sequences of the coronavirus, extracted from nine patients who were affected by the virus. They discovered that they each shared 99.98% of the same genetic sequence. Having a similar sequence allows the virus to spread very quickly which suggests the virus had spread recently. 

“Given that the 2019-nCoV sequences analyzed to date differ from each other by seven nucleotides at most, this suggests it jumped into humans very recently,” said Dr. Rosette Manio. “But it remains a mystery which animal spread the virus to humans.” 

How does it spread?

 The coronavirus is a respiratory illness. The virus can be easily spread due to human interaction, making it highly contagious. At this point, scientists are unsure of how 2019 – nCoV (the newest coronavirus) spreads from human to human, but it is clear it  is occurring. Current knowledge is based on similar diseases part of the same family of the coronavirus. These larger families of coronaviruses are common in camels, cattle, cats, and bats. It is rare that these viruses spread from animals to humans but once a human carries the disease, the spread is very easy. 

Human to human spread is typically caused by close interaction; within about six feet. It is thought that spread is caused when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These infected droplet particles can be inhaled by surrounding people,  infecting their lungs. 

Symptoms

People that carry the virus range from a variety of different symptoms. Some show little to no symptoms whereas some people are severely ill and can even die. Some of the symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.   

Prevention

According to the CDC, there is no way to ultimately prevent the disease completely. However, some precautionary hygiene methods can help. 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay at home when you are sick 
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then immediately throw the tissue out
  • Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces frequently

Overall, precautionary measures should be taken to ensure you are safe from the coronavirus and any other viruses you could be susceptible to. 

 

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