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Coronavirus not a new visitor to the world

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Tuesday, 7 April 2020 17:34

An illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the 2019 Novel Coronavirus
The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, is seen in an illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC/Handout via REUTERS.

The coronavirus comes from a huge family of viruses that is not new to our world, having been known since around 1960. The virus’ viral envelope (its outer layer) has a specific spike, which looks like a crown, hence the name ‘corona’ - crown - in Latin. 

This information was shared by Nigeria’s Dr. Femi Ogunremi, the CEO of Monitor Healthcare Limited, a medical telecommunication company, during a webinar held on 3 April entitled Preparing The Lagos State Health Scheme (LSHS) Providers for COVID-19: Practicalizing Case Identification and Management.

The aim of the webinar was to inform clinicians of guidelines and steps needed to ensure safety for themselves, their staff, and their patients.

It’s also information that the general public can learn from to better understand the virus behind this global pandemic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus in Nigeria catalyst to changes in financial sector

Second generation coronavirus

The coronavirus is the second generation daughter of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS) that appeared in China in 2002. It spread worldwide within a few months, but was quickly contained.

However, this new version of the virus is spreading very fast, and has a high fatality rate.

Although most viruses become less potent in places with high temperatures, not enough research has been done about this particular coronavirus, and so much uncertainty remains about its behaviour.

That being said, the expected surge of the virus here in Lagos has not yet happened.

Method of contamination

The virus is transmitted through droplets, for example through a sneeze or a cough. New research from the United States suggests that it could also be transferred through breathing, leading to new advice making face masks necessary.

Chinese research shows the virus can travel a distance of 4.5 metres, although most governments have been requiring people keep a distance between 1 to 2 metres.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: resist protectionist measures says UN

Animal versus human

There is a particular element in which this virus attacks and attaches itself to humans, usually through connecting to the receptor in specific places in the body such as the areola of the lungs, the kidneys, the heart and blood vessels.

The virus then uses this receptor to manipulate the cells in the body, by taking them over.

It uses the cells’ bacteria to replicate itself, forming a packet of like-cells, disseminating more of its kind, which then attacks more of these receptors in the body.

The impact is has on the areola area of the lungs leads to respiratory problems, which explains the common symptoms such as the dry cough and shortness of breath.

From experience in China, it seems most people have mild symptoms such as a fever, headache, or a dry cough, while others are asymptomatic.

READ MORE: Coronavirus aid: Chinese medical teams arrive in Africa to mixed reactions

History of contact

Retracing the history of contact, whether directly or indirectly of symptomatic patients, is key to understanding how it travels.

In China, it was discovered that the virus spreads most in gatherings where there is a cluster of people, such as in a temple or in a plane.

The coronavirus binds to the ACE2 receptors, which can be found on the blood vessels (among other parts of the body), which is why contracting the virus can have an effect on blood pressure.

Although few patients have come into medical facilities with high blood pressure or chest pain, this is not common. But unfortunately, due to the lack of knowledge of the virus, scientists are not yet sure why it affects blood pressure in some cases but not in others.

Added to that is the mere fact that the virus affects people differently.

If there are four patients with virtually the same health statistics that contract coronavirus, two might go to the ICU, while the other two may simply have a mild infection.

READ MORE: Nigeria Lagos states healthcare ‘mission impossible’

Bottom line: The uncertainty and lack of research on the coronavirus means advice is changing often. The world was unprepared for a global pandemic, which is why countries have had to come together fast, merging private and public sectors in some cases, to ensure adequate support is available for everyone.

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