Do you know Covid-19 is not the only Corona Virus case the world has ever recorded? Do you know seven known Corona Viruses can infect humans? Have you ever wondered how this whole thing came into being?
Well, at the time of writing this article, Covid-19 was trending, hence the choice of place. Corona Viruses are zoonotic viruses that cause diseases in humans. By zoonotic viruses, we mean that they can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Viruses are particles (not living organisms) that cannot be seen with the naked eyes. They can only be viewed under a microscope, preferably the electron microscope. The word Corona means a crown, so the name Corona Virus came as a result of the crown-like protein projections seen on the surface of the virus when viewed under a microscope.
Corona Viruses are a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). They are single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope, studded with club-shaped projections. There are hundreds of Corona Viruses in the Corona Virus family (Corona Viridae), most of which exist in animals like bats, camels, pigs, cows, etc.
CORONA VIRUS DIVISION AND DISCOVERY
The first Corona Virus was discovered in chickens in the 1930s(According to the website of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia). According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), human Corona Virus arose from the mid-1960s. In 2013, the Journal of Virology reported that the most recent common ancestor of the virus was known to exist about 10,000 years ago.
Scientists have divided Corona Virus into four subgroups, which are: Alpha Corona Virus, Beta Corona Virus, Gamma Corona Virus, and Delta Corona Virus. Each of these subgroups has many viruses but only 7 of these are believed can infect human beings. Statistically, four out of the seven potentially human Corona Viruses are common, whilst the other three, considered as dangerous, are uncommon. The Corona Viruses that cause mild to moderate disease in humans are called: 229E, OC43, NL63, and HKU1. They are the common ones. Human Corona Viruses 229E and NL63 are Alpha Corona Viruses whilst OC43 and HKU1 are Beta Corona Viruses. 229E and OC43 were first discovered before the other two. So far, the three deadly ones will be explored in the next paragraphs.
THE EMERGENCE OF SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY SYNDROME (SARS).
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness caused by a Corona Virus called SARS-CoV, which, in its expanded form, can be called SARS-related or associated Corona Virus. It was the first Pandemic in the 21st Century.
The SARS Viral disease arose in November 2002 in the Guangdong province of Southern China. From there, it started spreading to some parts of America, Europe, and Asia, and finally became a global threat in March 2003. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it was passed on to humans from civet cats.
The disease affected the inhabitants of 26 countries worldwide, with South Africa being the only African country that recorded a case. They had only one case. More than 8,000 people were infected worldwide, and among them, China recorded the highest number of cases — that is over 5,000 cases.
It is believed that the fatality rate of this disease was 11% and out of which only 1% were people below the age of 24 and as much as 55% were people above 65 years. This means young people survived at that time more than the old.
The SARS Virus appears to spread through person-to-person contact(s). The virus (SARS-CoV) was believed to be transmitted in respiratory droplets when an infected person coughed or sneezed. The droplets can travel for at least 3 feet. So, when it comes into contact with a mucus membrane of the mouth, eye, and or nose, the person gets infected. Also, when it falls on the surface and an individual comes into contact with it and then touches the mouth, eye, and or nose, the person gets infected.
Just like today, masks became popular then since there wasn’t any medication to cure the disease. Only preventive measures were preached. Schools were closed, strict measures at the airport were enforced and the likes. All these were closely adhered to and due to that, the spread was contained. Since 2004, another case of this SARS has never been recorded.
THE EMERGENCE OF MIDDLE EAST RESPIRATORY SYNDROME (MERS).
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is an illness caused by a virus, specifically, a Corona Virus called Middle East respiratory syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV). It was first identified in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. According to the WHO, the Virus spreads from dromedary camels to humans, although the exact role of dromedaries in the transmission of the virus and the exact route(s) of transmission is still unknown.
Most of the cases were recorded in the Arabian Peninsula. The largest known outbreak of MERS outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015. At least, the victims had a history of having traveled to the region it arose from.
The total number of this disease that the world recorded was believed to have been more than 2,500 people, in over 21 countries.
MERS affected people of all ages and had a relatively high fatal rate, 3 out of 10 persons i.e. 30% of those identified with the disease, later died. However, it is less contagious than SARS.
THE EMERGENCE OF COVID-19
This brings us to the current Corona Virus disease, which the world is battling with. It is known as Covid-19 (which represents Corona Virus Disease 2019) and the specific virus that causes this disease is known as SARS-CoV-2. Scientists named it this way because they believe it has something similar to the SARS that occurred in 2002. Covid-19 is believed to have originated from the animal market (i.e. Huanan seafood market) in Wuhan. On 11th March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19 as a pandemic (an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.). As of 10th May 2020 (10:44 GMT), a total of 4,118,655 confirmed cases were recorded. Out of which, 280,724 were dead and 1,447,602 have recovered worldwide.
This particular pandemic has unfortunately affected Africans more than the previous two in the 21st Century. Ghana is one of the African countries that is still recording cases, with over 4,000 cases recorded so far.
EPIDEMIC, ENDEMIC, AND PANDEMIC EXPLAINED.
There has been some confusion, with some writers even finding it difficult to differentiate between the following three keywords in epidemiology: pandemic, epidemic, and endemic.
A disease is said to be an epidemic when it suddenly occurs within a particular period. It can be a sudden occurrence of a new disease or one which already existed but was reignited. For instance, SARSCoV2 started infecting people in China unexpectedly. At that short period when the disease was completely new to the people, it was called an epidemic. Note: if the disease is already there but its transmission came to a halt for a while, and then started spreading again all of a sudden, it can still be called an epidemic.
When a disease is referred to as endemic, it means it has infected the inhabitants within a particular region for a long time. Note that in this case, an endemic disease affects a relatively small, confined area. So, Covid-19 was once endemic in China.
It only becomes a pandemic disease when it becomes a worldwide concern. That is why it took WHO almost four months to declare it as pandemic disease. Because at that time, it had spread to many parts of countries of the world, to the extent that the whole world must be prepared to fight against it together.
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Thank you for reading.