The coronavirus pandemic has resulted into widespread panic, leaving the biggest of healthcare systems in the world gasping. According to the latest figures declared by the World Health Organisation, COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by coronavirus, has approx. 4, 761,559 confirmed cases and 317, 529 deaths in more than 216 countries.
While the government authorities are making relentless efforts to combat the novel coronavirus by enforcing measures like lockdown and social distancing, the healthcare fraternity is trying its best to safeguard the lives of people infected with the novel coronavirus by risking their own lives.
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What is COVID-19?
The disease caused by the novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 is known as COVID-19. The individuals infected with COVID-19 show mild to serious symptoms. The coronavirus affects the respiratory system and causes life-threating pneumonia. Though people of all age groups can catch the novel coronavirus, older people and individuals who have other medical ailments like diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cancer etc. are at higher risk.
The coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets, meaning if an infected person coughs or sneezes and a healthy individual is in close proximity, the latter can easily catch the infection via inhaling or touching. The best way to prevent the coronavirus transmission is by following measures like social distancing, regular hand washing and proper sanitization.
Now let’s understand the structure of the Coronavirus and how it actually functions inside the body of a human being:
A group of viruses that majorly infect animals is known as coronavirus. They are called so owing to their spikey structure. In other words, the bulb-tipped spikes that emerge from the surface of the virus make it look like corona (a crown-like structure).
A coronavirus infects in two ways – 1) by causing flu like illness that particularly affects the lungs 2) by causing diarrhea. In the first case, when coronavirus enters the system, it causes common cold like symptoms that become extremely severe in a matter of few days. The virus starts playing with the immune system of the infected individual and may cause permanent lung damage and other serious health concerns. In serious cases of coronavirus, death is a big possibility.
The novel coronavirus is more or less similar to other coronaviruses viz SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, if we look at their genetic structure. However, the seemingly inconsequential differences have created the unprecedented havoc.
SARS-CoV-2 enters the cells and duplicates itself in a manner similar to other coronaviruses but leverages its own unique versions. Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 encompasses a distinctive set of genes known as accessories that makes it more viable in certain situations as compared with its counterparts.
How does SARS-CoV-2 infect a healthy human cell?
The infection starts with the entry of a virus particle into the human cell. This virus particle consists of a genetic material that is shaped like a long string and is safeguarded by a spherical shell. The other viruses take instructions from the enclosed genetic material and reproduce themselves. The novel coronavirus infects the cells that contain the protein called ACE2. The moment the spiked protein of the coronavirus gets attached to the ACE2 protein, the infection begins. Next, the spikes of the coronavirus mutate themselves, reconfiguring its structure completely. Now this spike combines the cell and the virus part together, propagating the infection.
SARS-CoV-2 infects the type II lung cells via throat. The cells of the immune system form a defence mechanism that causes more damage than good while trying to kill the virus.
The novel coronavirus is more dangerous than the virus causing season flu owing to its ability to multiply rapidly and inhibiting the ways by which the infected cell can reach out to the immune system for assistance. The coronavirus patients can take as much as one month for recovery as compared to the common influenza virus that gets cured within a week or so without specific medical intervention.
There are no vaccines or treatment options available for the treatment of COVID-19 at the moment. The global health authorities are trying their best to give essential medical service to the COVID-19 patients. The demand for Protective Personal Equipment along with equipment like thermal scanning instruments, medical disposable pillow cases, nitrile gloves, ventilators etc. is increasing manifold, owing to the ever-increasing burden on the healthcare system.
At this time when the coronavirus outbreak is growing wild, it is our responsibility to do whatever the situation demands in order to combat the disease. With proper measures in place along with a robust healthcare system, we will be able to make out our way through this pandemic.