A coronavirus was first isolated in 1937 - it was an avian infectious bronchitis virus which had (and still has) the ability to seriously devastate poultry stocks. According to the Health Protection Agency (HPA), UK, it can also infect the uro-genital tract of chickens, and eventually spread to various organs in its body.
Over the last 70 years, scientists have found that related coronaviruses can infect mice, rats, dogs, cats, turkeys, horses, pigs and cattle.
- What are human coronaviruses?
- Coronavirus symptoms and treatments
- What is the novel coronavirus (NCoV)?
- NCoV transmission
- Symptoms of NCoV infection
- How many human coronaviruses are there?
Fast facts on coronavirus
Here are some key points about coronaviruses. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- Coronaviruses cause up to 30% of common colds.
- There is no cure for the common cold.
- SARS and MERS are both caused by coronavirus.
- Coronavirus infect many different species.
- The novel coronavirus (NCoV) first appeared in the Middle East in 2012.
- NCoV has claimed nearly 500 lives since 2012.
- There are six known human coronaviruses.
- SARS spread from China to infect people in 37 countries, killing 774 people.
What are human coronaviruses?Human coronaviruses (HCoV) were first identified in the 1960s from the naval cavities of patients with the common cold. Approximatley 30% of common colds are caused by two human coronaviruses - OC43 and 229E.
Coronaviruses are thus called because of their crown-like projections on their surfaces. "Corona" in Latin means "halo" or "crown."
Coronaviruses viewed under an electron microscope, with their halo, or crown-like (corona) appearance
Scientists know of several coronavirus strains that can infect humans. One of the strains, known as SARS-CoV, causes SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). SARS is the most widely-reported coronavirus, alongside the "Novel Coronavirus" (also called Novel Coronavirus 2012, or London1_novel CoV 2012).
SARS-CoV is completely different from all other known coronaviruses - it is unique in that it can infect both the upper and lower respiratory tract - it can also cause gastroenteritis.
Human coronaviruses are said to account for between 10% and 30% of all common colds. Incidence of infection among humans is highest during the winter months as well as early spring. It is not uncommon for somebody to become ill with a coronavirus cold, and then to catch it again about four months later. Experts say this is because coronavirus antibodies do not last for very long - also, the antibodies for one coronavirus strain may be useless against other strains.
Scientists say the coronavirus' ability to mutate is what makes it so contagious.
Coronavirus symptoms and treatmentsCold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from two to four days after coronavirus infection, and they are typically mild. Symptoms include:
There is no cure, so treatments include taking care of yourself and over-the-counter medication:
- 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.
On the next page, we look at the novel coronavirus, its transmission and symptoms.