Wondering about Coronavirus?
In recent weeks, the news has been dominated with stories about coronavirus. The virus, now called COVID-19, first sickened people in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Since then, many thousands of people in that region, as well as other regions, have fallen ill, and some have died.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that contain RNA (instead of DNA, like people have). The viruses are circular in shape with spikes on the surface, which appear like a halo when the virus is viewed with a microscope. This halo of spikes is what led scientists to name these “coronaviruses.”
Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1930s, and as with other families of viruses, some coronaviruses are more worrisome than others. The earliest discovered coronaviruses infected farm animals, causing lung infections in chickens and digestive illness in pigs. Later, scientists found a couple of types that infected people, causing symptoms of the common cold.
This family of viruses garnered more attention in the early 2000s with the epidemic known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. The SARS virus infected civet cats and then gained the ability to infect people, leading to the epidemic. In 2012, a similar occurrence led to the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, epidemic. In this situation a coronavirus that infected camels gained the ability to infect people. Currently, scientists think that COVID-19 also originated in an animal and then infected people, but, right now, it remains uncertain as to which animal.
Read on to find out:
Why is COVID-19 such a big deal?
When a virus that normally infects animals gains the ability to infect people, two things can happen ...
What are scientists and public health officials doing about it?
When a new virus emerges, scientists and public health officials have a long “to do” list that includes ...
What should I worry about?
In situations such as the current COVID-19 epidemic, it is important not to “FORGET” these points ...