While news of the coronavirus has, as can be expected, gone viral, this columnist has been busy reading high level medical sources and listening to expert virology and immunology discussions on the nitty, gritty details surrounding the disease. For your benefit, here compiled is another installment of informational and practical gleanings to keep you informed and safe during this time.
One of the most striking features of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has been how easily it spreads. In January, this disease was virtually unheard of. As of the May day of writing this, upwards of 4 million people worldwide are known to be infected, with about 1.5 million of those positive cases being found in the U.S. and more than 15,000 right here in N.C. (“Mayday” indeed!).
Many more than the official count (anywhere between 5 and 10 times as much) are suspected to have been infected with the coronavirus! One reason believed for the ease of spread is the strength by which the spike protein on the surface of the virus bonds to receptors on the surface of human cells (which is much greater than the same bond formed with the original SARS virus). Incidentally, spike proteins, which are the little projections coming off the surface of the virus, were thought to look like little crowns, or “coronas” in Latin, by the scientists who discovered coronaviruses in the 1960s. Thus the name.
Not only does the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus spread quite readily among humans, some animals are also testing positive for COVID-19. As the virus genetically appears to have originated in Asian bats or Chinese pangolins (animals resembling armadillos) it can also infect many other animal species. The list of currently known animals includes monkeys, ferrets, cats, civets, tigers, hamsters and (sadly) dogs.
Now, before you go and abandon your pet cat, dog, or tiger, please understand that your greatest risk of catching the disease is from human-to-human spread and not animal-to-human spread. And seeing as how there is no cure in sight, prevention is the greatest solution we currently have. So, let’s keep our social distance. That goes for Fido, too!
The possible entry points for this disease are through the mouth, the nose and the eyes. It can spread by air (through an infected individual coughing, sneezing, talking or singing out droplets and aerosols) or by contact with an infected surface. It is unknown whether the fecal-oral route has led to virus transmission, but the virus is found in the feces of infected individuals. All said, we would be quite wise to cover these entry points while in public (proper mask usage being key), to sneeze into our elbows, to close the lid before flushing and to quit touching our mouths, noses and eyes. Of course, we mustn’t forget to wash and sanitize our hands. It seems much of the collective wisdom of mothers has been right all along!
Until next time, stay healthy.