A coronavirus disease (COVID / /,), coronavirus respiratory syndrome, coronavirus pneumonia, coronavirus flu, or any other variant, is a disease caused by members of the coronavirus (CoV) family.
Coronaviruses cause different coronavirus diseases including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Some strains of coronaviruses can also cause the common cold.
The 2019–20 coronavirus outbreak, caused by COVID-19, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. Local transmission of the disease has been recorded in many countries across all six WHO regions. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 is the third zoonotic coronavirus to be identified, after SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. As of September 16, 2020 WHO reported 29,444,198 confirmed cases and 931,321 COVID-19 deaths across the world.
Coronavirus disease was first discovered in humans in the 1930s. The virus, Human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E) was first isolated in 1965. Subsequently, six further coronaviridae were identified in humans, these being the common Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63), Human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43), Human coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1), as well as novel MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. HCoV-229E and HCoV-NL63 are Alphacoronavirus (α-CoV or Alpha-CoV), while HCoV-OC43, HCoV-HKU1, MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 are Betacoronavirus (β-CoV or Beta-CoV).
A new coronavirus was identified in 2012 with a SARS like illness, called the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) CoV resulted in a limited number of outbreaks, mostly in Saudi Arabia and other middle eastern countries.
In December 2019, a novel coronavirus (nCoV) was identified in Wuhan, China, which was isolated on 7 January 2020. The World Health Organisation recommended the interim name of the disease as 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease (2019-nCoV ARD) and 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) as the virus. However, the disease has subsequently been reclassified as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the virus as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is closely related to the earlier SARS-CoV and genetically clusters within Betacoronavirus with subgenus Sarbecovirus.
|Date of first
|Location of first
|Sex ratio (M:F)||3.3:1||0.8:1||1.6:1|
|Case fatality rate||37%||9.2%||2.8%|
A zoonotic disease is an infectious disease caused by a pathogen (an infectious agent, such as a bacterium, virus, parasite or prion) that has jumped from an animal (usually a vertebrate) to a human. SARS-CoV-2 is the third zoonotic coronavirus, after SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, although there is evidence that may support a zoonotic origin of HCoV-NL63 too.
In 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), causing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), led to the 2002–2004 SARS outbreak. More than 8,000 people from 29 different countries and territories were infected, and at least 774 died.
In 2012 Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV), causing Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), was identified.
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), which in December 2019 led to a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China, which developed into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diseases in other animals
Coronaviruses have been recognized as causing pathological conditions in veterinary medicine since the 1930s. They infect a range of animals such as swine, cattle, horses, camels, cats, dogs, rodents, birds, bats, and other wildlife. The majority of animal-related coronaviruses infect the intestinal tract and are transmitted by a fecal-oral route.
Electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 with its visible coronae
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The dictionary definition of COVID at Wiktionary