There can be few people on this planet who are unaware of the pandemic attacking almost every country. Its full title is SARS-CoV-2 which indicates that it is not flu but a form of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The medical condition it causes is known as Covid-19. However, like the common cold and flu, it is a virus and is one which can and has killed hundreds of thousands of people already. Our fight against it has been described as a war and they are not far wrong. So, in order to defeat it and remain protected, it is important that we know our enemy’s strengths and weaknesses.
In this series of blog articles, I will try to indicate where it may have come from, how it infects us, the symptoms and dangers of the disease, the possible treatments and the hope of a vaccination in the future.
There are thousands of viruses and they have been around for thousands of years. SARS-CoV-2 is one of these and has probably been present in the bat population for the same length of time. The majority of viruses cause us no harm and we are in fact completely unaware of them. But this one seems to have jumped out of its usual host via some other animal and infected humans.
It is believed to have broken out into the human population in a live animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan in the latter months of 2019. It has been known for some time that the hygiene standards in these markets is very low and they and similar places have been the starting points of other viruses breaking out in the past. These markets exist not only in China but in many other parts of the world.
Bats are a delicacy for some people and in this case, it is thought that the virus which bats can tolerate jumped into another animal present within the market. The chief suspect is the pangolin which is supposed to be protected but was still available to buy. The consumption of this creature is believed to have allowed the virus to invade humans and then to evolve so that it could be transmitted human to human.
There is much fake news relating to the origins of this virus including that it was artificially produced as a bio-weapon. The vast majority of scientists who have investigated the structure of this virus say that it is a natural one and definitely not man-made. However, there is another theory which is unlikely but possible. And that is that the virus was being investigated and studied at the Institute of Virology in Wuhan not too far from the animal market and that it escaped accidently. At the time of writing, we have no firm evidence for this and the animal market remains the most likely culprit.
The method of infection in the case of this virus is similar to the common cold. A cough or a sneeze can easily spread millions of viral particles and it only takes a few hundred to infect a person. Its speed of transmission is also both impressive and frightening. And given the ease of travel by aircraft today, it is not surprising that within a very short period of time, it has spread across the world.
Given these facts it is clear that wearing a mask cuts down the distance the droplets carrying the virus can travel, staying two metres apart also keeps most of the viral particles away from infecting others and the washing of hands with soap kills any viral particles that may be on your hands from touching infected objects; simple but effective.
So this is what it is and where we think it came from and how it originated. In the next blog article tomorrow, we will look at how the virus invades the body and how it causes the disease of Covid-19.