What is a coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a common virus that causes an upper-respiratory infection, like in your nose or throat. While most coronaviruses are not dangerous, several have been notably aggressive.

new coronavirus

The new coronavirus causes a respiratory illness that first showed up in Wuhan, China. The first patients had visited a seafood and animal market in the city, which meant is was likely to have been spread from animal to person–at least initially. As the disease has spread, patients are now reporting they’ve not been anywhere near the animal markets, which means the infection is now being transmitted from person to person.

Not much is known about the virus.


One important question: when is the patient contagious? Measles is the most contagious disease we’ve seen, and it can be spread several days before symptoms are detected. We don’t know if people who never get (the new coronavirus) symptoms but who carry the disease are contagious. We don’t know if people become more or less contagious over time.


Like SARS and MERS patients, the new coronavirus causes pneumonia. But, initially most patients start off with normal cold symptoms: fever, achy-ness, cough–then, for some, things get worse. Between 25-32% of cases end up in intensive care with acute respiratory distress.

in children

Interestingly, the coronavirus isn’t showing up in children as much as it is in adults. One theory: vaccines are providing some measure of protection.

About 106 people have died from the new coronavirus following an outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, with about 4500 people infected, most of whom are in China. Currently, the mortality rate is about 2% but the numbers will change rapidly.


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome showed up around 2003 and spread to 37 countries, causing a global panic. It is a coronavirus, and develops as a high fever, headache, and body aches. Some people also have mild respiratory symptoms and diarrhea. After 2 to 7 days, SARS patients may develop a dry cough. Most develop pneumonia. About 774 patients (out of about 8000 total patients) with SARS died. Depending on age group, the mortality rate was about 11%.

Compared to MERS, it was not as lethal but spread more quickly.


MERS wasn’t spread as easily from human to human, but was more deadly, killing 35% of about 2,500 infected people.

Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome showed up around 2012. It is a coronavirus that develops as a severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 858 patients with MERS have died.

Compared to SARS, it was more lethal but spread more slowly.

Be the first to comment

Let's Talk