Coronaviruses — The Killer This Time!

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The Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that can be transmitted from animals to humans1. They cause illnesses that range from the common cold to more severe respiratory tract infection and very rarely gastroenteritis1. The last century has witnessed the global spread of two previously unknown Coronaviruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV have emerged from animal reservoirs and both are highly pathogenic and associated with severe respiratory syndrome in humans2. Four other human Coronaviruses [HCoV-OC43, HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63 and HCoV-HKU1] induce mild upper respiratory disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was alerted to several cases of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China by 31 December, 2019. Most patients worked at or lived around the local Hunan seafood market, where live animals were also on sale. By 7 January 2020 a novel coronavirus was confirmed by the Chinese Center for Diseases Control and Prevention as the cause of the Pneumonia. This new virus was temporarily named “2019-nCoV but later renamed COVID-19 by the WHO.”3


Consultant Virologist
University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria

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