They are a family of viruses that usually
cause mild illnesses, such as the common cold.
There are certain types of coronaviruses
that can affect the lower airway, which would lead to serious illnesses like
pneumonia and bronchitis.
They usually circulate in animals but there
are two known human coronaviruses that could cause severe symptoms – MERS-CoV
and SARS-CoV. These two viruses made an appearance in the past in Saudi Arabia
and China respectively, although SARS-CoV spread to over 29 countries, killing
over 8000 people.
In early December 2019, cases similar to
MERS and SARS were reported in Wuhan, China – tracing back to the local meat
This virus was soon identified as a new
strand of Coronaviruses and named Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019).
How does this virus work?
It is spread through air droplets
transmitted into the air from coughing or sneezing by an infected person.
These viral particles travel quickly to the
back of the nasal passages and to the mucus membranes in the back of the
These viruses have spiked proteins sticking
out from their surfaces that hook onto cell membranes which would allow the
virus to enter the human cell.
What are the symptoms of Covid-19?
The following symptoms may appear within 2-14 days of being infected:
Shortness of breath
How does Covid-19 symptoms differ from flu and hay
fever (allergic rhinitis) symptoms?
The biggest difference is that the symptoms
of flu often come on suddenly while Covid-19 symptoms develop more gradually.
Many common symptoms of the flu like runny nose, vomiting and chills are less
observed in Covid-19 cases.
Itching of the eyes, nose and throat, which
is the hallmark symptom of hay fever, isn’t associated with Covid-19, even if
they share a few symptoms like coughing and sneezing. Moreover, shortness of
breath and fever aren’t observed in hay fever.
Is there a cure?
No cure has been found yet, although
efforts to produce vaccines are underway.
How can you protect yourself?
Clean your hands often
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds
after you have been in a public place, or after coughing and sneezing.
Use hand sanitizers containing 60% alcohol
if soap and water are not available.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are
Stay home if you are sick
Cover your sneezes and coughs
Wear a facemask – but if only you are sick/taking
care of the sick. Or else, leave the face masks for the sick and the healthcare
workers, please. They need it more than you do.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched
surfaces like tables, light switches, doorknobs. Phones, toilets.