What are coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are different types of viruses that were first described in 1960. They are found in various animals such as camels, cats, cattle, and bats. Not all cause disease. Occasionally, they pass from animals to humans causing infections, as happened in 2002-2003 with SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), in 2012 to present with MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS-CoronavirusV2 2019 nCoV or covid-19.

What we do know is that the novel coronavirus, or covid-19, that is causing the current infection started in Wuhan in China . It comes from viruses circulating silently in bats and epidemiological information suggests that these viruses infected currently unidentified animal species, some of which are sold in seafood markets and other live animals. It is thought that, although the virus was initially passed from animals to humans, the transmission of this respiratory disease became person-to-person. The first case outside of China was reported in Thailand on January 13, 2020. It has now spread to several countries outside of China, and to all continents except Antarctica.

According to a recent study published by the Chinese CDC, of ​​the 44,672 confirmed cases of covid-19 in China, as of February 11, more than 36,000 (representing 81%), were mild (that is, they did not have pneumonia -infection in the lungs- or the pneumonia was mild). There were two other categories: severe (if there was shortness of breath, low blood oxygen, and other lung problems) and critical (respiratory failure, septic shock, and dysfunction of various organs). Less than 14% had severe cases and less than 5% had critical cases. The overall death rate in Chinait was 2.3%. By comparison, the death rate for influenza (known as the flu or flu) is around 0.1%. It is estimated that the actual mortality rate may be lower since many mild cases are not reported to the authorities. On the other hand, if the real mortality rate is 2.3%, it means that it is approximately 20 times more fatal than the typical influenza (flu or flu) and similar to the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 which, according to some estimated, it killed more people than either of the two world wars.

The fact that most cases so far are mild is both good and bad. Well, because most infections go away on their own and the patients are cured . Bad because, as in other viral diseases, they can be transmitted when patients are asymptomatic, sub-symptomatic, or are not yet diagnosed because symptoms have not appeared. This makes the infection more difficult to control and may make a pandemic unavoidable (becoming prevalent in an entire country, an entire continent, or the entire world; pandemic comes from the Greek meaning throughout the population). ). That’s what five scientists say in a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine.: “In this way, a virus that presents a low risk at the individual level presents a high risk at the population level, with the potential to disrupt global public health systems and cause economic losses.”

According to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the US National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, the spread of the virus in this country is not a question of if, but when. Unfortunately, last year the president had cut off the program dedicated to identifying and investigating viruses with the potential to infect humans, among other health programs. And the money he has requested from Congress to finance this emergency is insufficient, according to experts.

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified the novel coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and issued a Level 4 (Do Not Travel) Alert to China . Several international organizations including the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC have been tracking cases of this virus.

The regions affected are continually changing as the outbreak spreads. The affected regions as of February 18, 2020 included:

  • Asia (China, including Hong Kong and Macao), Cambodia, India, Japan, Nepal, Malaysia, Philippines, Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates.
  • America: Canada, United States
  • Europe: Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
  • Oceania: Australia
  • Africa: Egypt

Until February 26, it had been exported to 36 countries. On February 27, 9 more countries (Brazil, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Norway, Pakistan, Romania and North Macedonia) reported cases of covid-19 .

According to the WHO , by February 27, 82,294 cases of covid-19 had been confirmed worldwide (of which 1,185 were new). Of these, 76,630 were confirmed cases from China (of which 439 were new). In China they have had 2,747 deaths (29 were new deaths).

Outside of China there have been 3,664 confirmed cases (of which 746 are new); it involves 46 countries (9 are new). They have had 57 deaths (13 deaths are new).

According to the WHO, the risk classification posed by covid-19 in China is “very high”, while the regional and global risk classification at this time is “high”.

In the United States, 14 cases have been reported related to travel where patients were exposed to the new coronavirus or covid-19 ; 2 cases of person-to-person transmission, with CDC confirming the first case of a person infected with Covid-19 on February 26, 2020 in California who had no known relevant history of travel or exposure to another patient he was infected with covid-19. It is the first case where the source of infection is unknown and it is the first case of community infection in this country . The total number of cases in the US. reported so far is 15 in seven states: Washington, Illinois, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Texas. Most had traveled to China . In addition, 42 people from a Cruise ( Diamond Princess ) had positive laboratory studies for covid-19 (not all had symptoms). They were in quarantine before entering the US. 445 people have been tested.

In February 2020, China amended the definition of the diagnosis and characteristics of patients with novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to include clinically diagnosed cases based on their lung X-ray findings (in addition to cases diagnosed had been diagnosed with laboratory studies).

CDC analysis of China cases through mid-February suggests that:

  • The overall mortality rate has been 2.3%
  • The new coronavirus has had a predominance in men (51.4% vs. women 48.6%), causing more deaths in men (2.8%) than in women (1.7%)
  • The greatest risk of death has been in people 60 years and older (especially 80 years and older) and those with other diseases (cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cancer).
  • The majority of confirmed cases were in people between the ages of 30 and 69 (77.8%) and were mild (80.9%). And among those who were exposed in Wuhan (85%)


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