Resources: Why is it called coronavirus?

This illustration by the CDC depicts the coronavirus.
This illustration by the CDC depicts the coronavirus.
Image: CDC.

      The World Health Organization yesterday upgraded the global risk of the coronavirus outbreak to very high. This is the top level of risk assessment and more evidence of how serious the organization is about the outbreak.

      Officials spoke of taking swift action to detect cases early, treat patients and trace contacts. They released $15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to help fund global efforts to contain the virus. Worries about the economic impact of the virus sent stocks tumbling.

      But what is this virus and who is most at risk? Here are the basics, along with links for further study:   

     What is the coronavirus?  Merriam-Webster defines coronavirus as "any of a family (Coronaviridae) of single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope studded with club-shaped projections, infect birds and many mammals including humans, and include the causative agents of MERS and SARS."  (RNA is ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all living cells involved in making proteins.)

     Where did the name come from? It first appeared in the journal Nature in 1968 (vol. 220, no. 5168, Nov. 16, 1968, p. 650) in an article by a group of virologists. It was named the  coronavirus came because scientists noticed that the microscopic appearance of the virus resembled a solar corona. The word corona in Latin means crown or garland.

    Why is it now called COVID 19? On Feb. 11, the World Health Organization announced that COVID 19 would be the designation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains that CO stands for corona; VI is for virus, and D for disease. The number 19 is the year -- 2019-- the outbreak began.

     Where did it come from? It was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei province, China, Early infections were "linked to a live animal market," according to the CDC, "but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person." 

     Who is most at risk? Risk factors include recent travel from or residence in China or close contact with someone who has COVID-19, according to Mayo Clinic's website. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association says the medium age is between 49 and 56 and cases in children are rare. Most cases are mild. The virus is dangerous for patients with health complications. "All patients admitted to the hospital have pneumonia," according to the American Medical Association, and "about a third of patients subsequently developed acute respiratory distress syndrome and required care in the intensive care unit. This is particularly true for patients with comorbid conditions such as diabetes or hypertension." 

     How does it start? The CDC describes the symptoms and complications as "mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough, and difficulty breathing."

     To know more: 

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