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What is coronavirus and Covid-19? An explainer

March 31, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Basic facts about coronaviruses and how they cause diseases such as Covid-19.

"Novel coronavirus" is the proper term for this brand-new virus wreaking havoc on our unprepared world.

Covid-19 can also present with mild symptoms very similar to a typical cold or flu -- or no symptoms at all, which makes controlling the spread of the virus causing Covid-19 very difficult.

What is a coronavirus?

It's that type of mutation which gives humanity viruses like SARS-CoV-2.

"Usually viruses from one animal really don't effectively transmit to other animal species or even to people," said Dr. John Williams, chief of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Besides the newly hatched novel coronavirus, there are actually six additional coronaviruses that infect humans -- four of them cause the common cold.

The coronaviruses that cause MERS and SARS are though to have crossed from mammals to humans, where they mutated to become contagious.

"So the virus got over one of the barriers -- it's able to infect humans, grow in them and cause disease -- but thankfully it really doesn't spread well person to person, other than very, very close contacts. "

Because one of the most common carriers for coronaviruses are bats, it's thought that the virus may have started there.

"SARS caused death in about 10% of people that became infected and it did spread person to person but not super effectively," Williams said.

"This new virus, SARS-CoV-2, has overcome more barriers," Williams added.

"It spreads easily person to person and a lot of people can have either mild disease or they might not even have symptoms, yet they can have the virus and spread it. "

A recent report of the initial cases of coronavirus in China debunks the "snake flu" theory, reporting that in 13 of the 41 early cases the infected patients had no link to the wet market.

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