Coronaviruses (CoV) are 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). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in 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, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread 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.
Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals, including humans. They are associated with the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and can also affect the gut.
A coronavirus was first isolated in 1937 from an infectious bronchitis virus in birds that has the ability to seriously devastate poultry stocks.
These viruses are responsible for between 15 and 30 percent of common colds.
Over the last 70 years, scientists have found that coronaviruses can infect mice, rats, dogs, cats, turkeys, horses, pigs, and cattle. Most recently, authorities identified a coronavirus outbreak in China that has now reached other countries.
This MNT Knowledge Center article will focus on the different types of human coronaviruses, their symptoms, how they are transmitted, and two particularly dangerous diseases that can be caused by coronaviruses: SARS and MERS.
Fast facts on coronaviruses:
- There is no cure for the common cold.
- A coronavirus causes both SARS and MERS.
- Coronaviruses infect many different species.
- There are seven known human coronaviruses.
- SARS spread from China to cause infection in 37 countries, killing 774 people.
Human coronaviruses (HCoV) were first identified in the 1960s in the noses of patients with the common cold. Two human coronaviruses are responsible for a large proportion of common colds OC43 and 229E.
Symptoms: Cold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from two to four days after coronavirus infection, and they are typically mild. However, symptoms vary from person to person, and some forms of the virus can be fatal.
- A runny nose
- A cough
- In rare cases, fever
- A sore throat
- Exacerbated asthma
Types: Different types of human coronaviruses vary in the severity of illness they cause and how far they can spread. There are currently seven recognized types of coronavirus that can infect humans.
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
- Coughing and sneezing without covering the mouth can disperse droplets into the air, spreading the virus.
- Touching or shaking hands with a person that has the virus can pass the virus from one person to another.
- Making contact with a surface or object that has the virus and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.
- On rare occasions, a coronavirus may spread through contact with feces.
Journal of Infectious Diseases and Diagnosis
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