What are Coronaviruses?

  • 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 markets.
  • 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 throat.
  • 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:
    • Fever
    • Cough
    • 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 sick
  • 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.

Written by: Dhimsha Riza
Treasurer, FESA

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