What is COVID-19? (Coronavirus Update)


Hey everyone, I just wanted to take a second
from my normal content to give you a quick update on the coronavirus situation as many
people are very concerned about this, let’s just go over some basic definitions so that
everyone can understand what’s going on a little better. So coronavirus is actually a family of viruses,
so even though viruses are technically not living organisms we still apply the convention
of Linnaean classification just for simplicity. So this is a family, and the name coronavirus
comes from the latin word corona which means crown, this refers to some proteins that project
from the capsid and give it this crown-like appearance. So in general, coronaviruses attack the respiratory
system and infect cells in various tissues there, replicating and disrupting normal cellular activity. They have the ability to cause diseases like
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV),
which is the SARS we are familiar with. Now the particular strain of coronavirus that
is causing this outbreak is 2019-nCoV (read 2019 novel coronavirus) so the n conveys that
this is a new strain, and 2019 is the year it was encountered, since this was first reported
in December of 2019. The virus is also referred to as SARS-CoV-2. Now this virus causes COVID-19 or coronavirus
disease 2019, so typically this term is referring to the disease caused by the virus, although
some outlets do seem to use this interchangeably with the virus itself. In general coronaviruses are zoonotic, which
means they are transmitted from animals. We don’t yet know what the animal was that
carried this to humans, previous coronaviruses have come from cats or camels, and in this
case we believe it may have been bats. We aren’t yet sure how deadly the virus
is, it usually just causes respiratory symptoms, but we know that in some cases death can occur. We can look at some fatality rates are reported
by the China CDC, or the Chinese center for disease control and prevention, and it looks
like around 2% of the cases result in death. Now many people are calling this a pandemic,
this is certainly not true, we have to remember the definitions of certain words like endemic,
epidemic, and pandemic. So the word endemic refers to the normal expected
levels of a particular disease, like the way a certain number of people get the flu every
year, that sort of thing. Epidemic refers to higher than normal occurrence
of a disease in a particular region. The word pandemic implies that a disease is
spreading worldwide in an alarming way. This is certainly not the case as almost all
of the cases are in China. In China they are on the precipice of an epidemic,
but we are nowhere near pandemic, that would require large amounts of cases in many countries,
which simply does not exist. So in general just be cautious, if any reports
of cases crop up in your area be even more cautious. This entails basically just washing your hands
a lot, as viruses can remain viable for some time on inanimate objects or in the air. So we know now that the virus is airborne,
and it causes a respiratory infection so it can be spread from coughing and sneezing. This is called the respiratory-aerosol route. And there is emerging evidence of transmission
by the oral-fecal route as well, so we do have more to learn about this strain. Above all else, as we said, 99% of all the
cases are in China and half of the rest are on one particular cruise ship, so maybe just
don’t go to China. That’s really the solution here, if you
have plans to go to China, probably don’t go to China. We do need to be concerned but there is no
need for panic, the probability of getting COVID-19 outside of China is extremely low,
and we’ve seen this type of scare before with SARS, or swine flu. Rest assured that there are thousands of brilliant
people working on this, there is a particular epitope on the virus, a glycoprotein that
is being targeted for antibodies which may yield some success, so time will tell here. Above all, stay informed. And in particular, don’t fall for all the
misinformation and sensationalist stories, as there are tons going around about the millions
of projected deaths and government plots and what have you. Any stories of this nature should be approached
with extreme skepticism. If it sounds like it was made up for clicks,
then it probably was. And that goes for a lot of things aside from
coronavirus. So that’s just a few details about the new
strain of coronavirus and where we are at with the research. If you’re new to my channel and you want
to learn more about biology and microbiology, or any number of other sciences, take a look
around my homepage and see if anything interests you. You can learn about viral replication and
transmission, the immune system, or pathogens in general, and that will give you some ability
to stay on top of this stuff at home. Stay healthy, friends.