What exactly is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered strain of coronavirus in humans is coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (WHO,2020)
How does COVID-19 get into my cells?
Scientists explained that COVID-19 binds with human respiratory cells hijacking them to produce more viruses.
Becoming infected with the coronavirus occurs when it enters the body through mucus membranes - nose, mouth or eyes. It gets to work by attaching itself to a receptor on respiratory cells called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2.
How does it attach itself to my cells?
The virus is named so after a crown, in that it contains a series of spikes. It is surrounded by an oil-like substance. The good news here washing your hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub kills any lingering viruses and bacteria on your hands.
What happens next?
Cells are infected when the virus overcomes the membrane of the cell with its own oily membrane and then releases a genetic material called RNA.
Sound Simple? It Really Is!
It is simple, yes; however, it is also incredibly complex when you consider the scientific term. The virus’s genome is 30,000 ‘letters’ long and the human bodies is over 3 billion.
What happens next?
The infected cell reads the RNA and sets about making proteins that ties-up the immune system and then duplicates the virus. Throughout the infection process, the cell throws out more and more spikes and proteins, which then form further copies of the coronavirus.
Okay, now I’m getting confused…
As new copies of the virus form, they are brought to the extremities of the cell. Each infected cell then releases millions of copies of the virus before the cell dies. Other cells can then be infected and others form droplets which can escape through the lungs.
Is this aggressive little bug the reason why my immune system is vulnerable?
As your immune system fights to get rid of the virus, it results in fever. If it develops aggressively it attacks the lungs and it's cells. The difficulty for these organs comes when dying cells and their fluids begin blocking the lungs forcing breathing difficulties.
The worst-case scenario?
Small percentages of infections cause death, which can follow acute respiratory distress, hence the grave concern around this particular pandemic.
Working on a cure?
Scientists and pharmacies around the world are furiously working on a cure. What we do know is that it won’t be an antibiotic as antibiotics only kill bacteria and not viruses. The cure will come through the discovery of an antiviral solution, which will disrupt the vital proteins and stop the infection.
Should I be worried?
Illness due to COVID-19 infection is generally mild, especially for children and young adults. However, it can cause serious illness: about 1 in every 5 people who catch it need hospital care. It is therefore quite normal for people to worry about how the COVID-19 outbreak will affect them and their loved ones.
How is soap so effective?
Regularly and thoroughly cleaning your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water is very effective in killing viruses. Soap, effectively, breaks up the liquid membrane of the virus.
But this first emerged in bats, right?
It is believed that it emerged in bats, but that is still not an absolute fact. Bats also have the ACE2 protein, which the virus first attaches itself to the cells which produce this protein.
Can I catch this off my dog or cat?
There has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any household pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently and thoroughly.