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Coronavirus: All you need to know

Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals, including humans. They are associated with the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and can also affect the gut.

Where did the virus originate?

Chinese health authorities are still trying to determine the origin of the virus, which they say likely came from a seafood market in Wuhan where wildlife was also traded illegally.

Scientists have pointed to either bats or snakes as the source of the virus.

Types of coronavirus

There are currently seven recognized types of coronavirus that can infect humans.

Common types include:

  • 229E (alpha coronavirus)
  • NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
  • OC43 (beta coronavirus)
  • HKU1 (beta coronavirus)

Rarer, more dangerous types include MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), the coronavirus responsible for SARS. In 2019, a dangerous new strain started circulating, but it does not yet have an official name. Health authorities are currently referring to it as 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov).

Symptoms

Most coronaviruses spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do: through infected people coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things such as doorknobs that infected people have touched.

Symptoms include:

  • sneezing
  • a runny nose
  • fatigue
  • a cough
  • in rare cases, fever
  • a sore throat
  • breathlessness
  • exacerbated asthma

It may take 2–14 days for a person to notice symptoms after infection.

Prevention and Cure

Currently there is no cure for 2019-nCov, so treatments include taking care of yourself and over-the-counter (OTC) medication:

  • Rest and avoid overexertion.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Avoid smoking and smoky areas.
  • Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen to reduce pain and fever.
  • Use a clean humidifier or cool mist vaporizer.

The virus responsible can be diagnosed by taking a sample of respiratory fluids, such as mucus from the nose, or blood.

Scientists around the globe are racing to develop a vaccine but have warned that one is unlikely to be available for mass distribution before 2021.

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