COVID-19: A Pandemic which shocks the World

Did you know SARS-CoV-2 or the commonly known COVID-19 is not the first Corona Virus? It’s the seventh in its family. The other six being- 229E (alpha coronavirus), NL63 (alpha coronavirus), OC43 (beta coronavirus), HKUI (beta coronavirus), MERS-CoV (beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS-CoV (beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome) and SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus causing coronavirus disease 2019).

So, what is the difference between SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19? So SARS-CoV-2 is the actual virus, and the disease which is caused by the virus is called COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease 2019). It was given the name Corona because of its structure and its resemblance to a crown-like spike. Various research has indicated that there are millions of viruses within the wildlife that are undiscovered, and some of them can be harmful to human beings. When a virus jumps from an animal to a human, it is called a “zoonotic virus”.

In 2002, coronavirus-SARS was discovered. Few theories suggested that it spread as-yet-uncertain animal reservoir, perhaps bats, which may have spread to other animals. Further in 2012, MERS unrolled, killing hundreds of people. It too was speculated to be spread through bats. Some theories suggest, SARS-CoV-2, which started from the seafood market in Wuhan, China during Dec-19, is suspected of having spread from a bat onto an intermediary species and then to humans. Recent awareness of the virus infecting a tiger in a New York-based Zoo indicate the infection can move across species.

The virus amplifies its reach through droplets while sneezing, cough or while speaking and can enter through the eyes, nose and mouth. The virus can live on surfaces for up to 72hrs, and people can pick it up through their hands and infect those selves. If the infection reaches the body, its spikes like surface act as a ‘Key’, locking itself to the protein on the human cells. Once the virus breaks inside the protected layer, it starts to reproduce. The virus expands at an unprecedented rate within the host, causing symptoms like fever, coughing, fatigue, difficulty in breathing, loss of appetite, diarrhoea, amongst others. As the symptoms of this virus are familiar to the flu, a person infected can be disseminating and migrating the virus unknowingly, which makes it even more dangerous. It is estimated, the spread of the infection can double every single day.

There are a specific set of people who are at high risk, people suffering from lung disease, heart disease and diabetes. Data coming from different countries also suggest that as you get older, the probability of getting terminally ill increases. Various studies also state that the risk of contamination in men is higher than in women. Possibly attributed to biological factors or lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drinking.

The best way to defeat the virus is through developing immunity, as it is observed, most people with high immunity have recovered from the infection. When a broader set of people have developed resistance, it becomes difficult for the virus to spread, this is called herd immunity.

MSc Population Health student at University College London (UCL). Have also worked as a Healthcare and Life Science consultant at EY and Cognizant.