WHAT IS THE CORONAVIRUS ?
Well, to start with, it’s a virus, not a bacteria. It’s a microscopic germ that you can only see under a microscope. There are several types of microscopic organisms, eg. viruses, bacteria, fungus, parasites.
The word “corona” comes from Latin, and means a ‘wreath’ or ‘crown’. This is because under a microscope it looks like it has a crown.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
This is the 3-D picture you’ll see in the media:
This is what it actually looks like under a microscope:
It was initially called the “novel coronavirus” because it was a new version not yet seen in humans. Other types
affected humans a few years ago, eg. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
These were also Coronaviruses, while H1N1 (swine flu) and H5N1 (bird flu) were variations of the Influenza (flu) virus which in turn was associated with the 1918 outbreak known as the 'Spanish flu'.
Viruses frequently mutate, which is why you have a to get a flu shot every year, instead of just a single vaccine.
This new version is now called COVID-19, which stands for Corona Virus Disease 2019.
ARE ALL GERMS BAD?
No. We live in harmony with billions of organisms (germs) on our skin, in our gut, in our noses, etc. and they don’t cause problems. In fact they actually benefit us, which is why you hear so much about “good bacteria” and “probiotics” these days (that’s a topic for another day).
Viruses like the Coronavirus are considered pathogenic, ie. you don’t want them in your body.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019. Although health officials are still tracing the exact source of this new coronavirus, early hypotheses thought it may be linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China. Some people who visited the market developed viral pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus. A study that came out on Jan. 25, 2020, notes that the individual with the first reported case became ill on Dec. 1, 2019, and had no link to the seafood market. Investigations are ongoing as to how this virus originated and spread.