Coronaviruses are types of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract of mammals, including humans. They are associated with the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and can also affect the gut.
A coronavirus was first isolated in 1937 from an infectious bronchitis virus in birds that has the ability to seriously devastate poultry stocks.
These viruses are responsible for between 15 and 30 percent of common colds.
Over the last 70 years, scientists have found that coronaviruses can infect mice, rats, dogs, cats, turkeys, horses, pigs, and cattle.
This MNT Knowledge Center article will focus on the different types of human coronaviruses, their symptoms, how they are transmitted, and two particularly dangerous diseases that can be caused by coronaviruses: SARS and MERS.
Cold- or flu-like symptoms usually set in from two to four days after coronavirus infection, and they are typically mild.
Human coronaviruses cannot be cultivated in the laboratory easily, unlike the rhinovirus, another cause of the common cold. This makes it difficult to gauge the coronavirus' impact on national economies and public health.
There is no cure, so treatments include taking care of yourself and over-the-counter (OTC) medication:
The virus responsible can be diagnosed by taking a sample of respiratory fluids, such as mucus from the nose, or blood.
Different types of human coronaviruses vary in the severity of illness they cause and how far they can spread.
There are currently six recognized types of coronavirus that can infect humans.
Common types include:
Rarer, more dangerous types include MERS-CoV, which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), the coronavirus responsible for SARS.
However, it is believed that the viruses transmit using secreted fluid from the respiratory system.
Coronaviruses can spread in the following ways:
People in the U.S. are more likely to contract the disease in the winter or fall. The disease is still active during the rest of the year. Young people are most likely to contract a coronavirus, and people can contract more than one infection over the course of a lifetime. Most people will become infected with at least one coronavirus in their life.
It is said that the mutating abilities of the coronavirus are what make it so contagious.
To prevent transmission, be sure to stay at home and rest while experiencing symptoms and avoid close contact with other people. Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or handkerchief while coughing or sneezing can also help prevent the spread of a coronavirus. Be sure to dispose of any used tissues and maintain hygiene around the home.