What is Coronavirus?


CoronavirusImage of the Mers-CoV coronavirus obtained by electron microscopy.

What is it

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that were discovered in the 1960s but whose origin is still unknown. Its different types cause different diseases, from a cold to a severe respiratory syndrome (a severe form of pneumonia ).
Much of the coronaviruses are not dangerous and can be treated effectively. In fact, most people get a coronavirus at some time in their life, usually during their childhood. Although they are more frequent in autumn or winter, they can be purchased at any time of the year.
The coronavirus owes its name to the appearance it presents, since it is very similar to a crown or a halo. It is a type of virus present in both humans and animals.
In recent years, three major epidemic outbreaks caused by coronaviruses have been described:
SARS-CoV : The acute and severe respiratory syndrome (SARS, also known as SARS and SARS) began in November 2002 in China, affected more than 8,000 people in 37 countries and caused more than 700 deaths. The mortality of SARS-Cov has been estimated at approximately 10%.
MERS-CoV : The coronavirus that causes the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) was first detected in 2012 in Saudi Arabia. More than 2,400 cases of infection have been reported until October 2019 in different countries, with more than 800 deaths. Lethality is therefore 35%.
2019nCoV : At the end of December 2019, the first cases of a new outbreak of coronavirus were reported in the city of Wuhan (China). Since then the dripping of new infected has been continuous, there have been several deaths and it has been confirmed that this coronavirus is transmitted not only from animals to people, but from human to human. It does not seem as serious as SARS or as lethal as MERS.
There are already infected people in various countries, but experts ask for caution and believe it is unlikely to cause epidemic outbreaks in countries like Spain . “In the hypothetical case that someone infected arrives in Spain with symptoms, it seems that for now the transmission from person to person is limited,” says Javier Arranz, spokesman for the Infectious Diseases Group of the Society of Family and Community Medicine ( Semfyc) .


Coronaviruses are transmitted in a limited way among humans, but to date the origin of these viruses is unknown. In any case, it is known that certain animals, such as bats, act as reservoirs.
As in other viruses that cause pneumonia, when transmitted in humans, infection is usually caused by the respiratory route, through the respiratory droplets that people produce when they cough, sneeze or speak.
Everything seems to indicate that  new coronavirus, 2019nCoV , also known as Wuhan coronavirus, has an animal origin. In fact, the first cases have been related to a live animal market in the city of Wuhan in China.
As for MERS, camels are likely to be an important reservoir for this type of coronavirus and an animal source of infection in humans, as specified by the World Health Organization in its descriptive note on the disease . However, the specific role of camels in the transmission of the virus and also the exact route or routes of transmission are unknown.
In origin, the MERS-CoV coronavirus is a zoonotic virus that is transmitted from animals to people . As can be seen from the analysis of several of its genomes, it is believed that the virus originated in bats and was transmitted to camels at some point in the distant past.
It is believed that the SARS coronavirus originated in bats, subsequently jumping to some other species of small mammal, such as civet, and finally to humans.


In general, the main symptoms of coronavirus infections are usually:
  • Secretion and runny nose.
  • Cough.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sore throat and headache.
  • Fever.
  • Chills and malaise.
  • Shortness of breath (breathlessness)
In clinical spectrum of this type of infections varies from the absence of symptoms to mild or acute respiratory symptoms. This typology usually involves cough, fever and breathing difficulties . It is common to have pneumonia and, in the case of MERS, gastrointestinal symptoms, especially diarrhea, can also be recorded .
As with the influenza virus , the most severe symptoms (and the highest mortality) are recorded in both the elderly and those with immunosuppression or with chronic diseases such as diabetes , some types of cancer or chronic lung disease. In extreme cases it can cause respiratory failure.


To date, no vaccine or specific treatment is available to combat coronavirus infection.
Maintaining basic hygiene is the most effective way to avoid contracting this virus in places where there is a greater risk of transmission, mainly areas of the planet where cases have been recorded. It is convenient to wash your hands frequently and avoid contact with people already infected , especially protecting eyes, nose and mouth. Those who may be in contact with potential affected parties are advised to wear masks and use handkerchiefs to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
When the MERS-Cov emerged, it was reported that products of animal origin properly processed by cooking or pasteurization do not pose any risk of infection, but should be handled with care to avoid contamination by contact with raw products. Camel meat and milk may continue to be consumed after pasteurization, cooking or other heat treatments; However, its raw consumption should be discarded .
These precautions should be followed especially by those who suffer from diabetes, kidney failure, chronic pneumopathy or immunosuppression, since they have a higher risk of serious illness in case of coronavirus infection. 


In human coronaviruses, the severity can vary substantially between one type and another:

Cold coronavirus

This variant of coronavirus corresponds to types 229E and OC43, which cause the common symptoms of a cold , although in the most severe cases they can also cause pneumonia in the elderly or in neonates.
Coronavirus types Chandigarh

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

It is a serious form of pneumonia . It causes respiratory distress and fever over 38 degrees. The 2002 outbreak spread throughout the world, although its frequency has always been greater in East Asia.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)

It causes serious respiratory problems , in addition to fever, cough and shortness of breath, although at first it can be asymptomatic . In more severe cases, blood expectoration, diarrhea and vomiting also occur It had its first outbreak in 2012 and since then many cases have been reported in the Middle East, although it has also reached Europe and the United States.

Wuhan coronavirus (2019nCoV)

The new coronavirus detected in late 2019 in China shows a genetic sequence that matches that of SARS by 80%. However, at first it seems less virulent and with a significantly lower mortality.
Coronaviruses can also appear in animals . Some of the most frequent are canine and feline coronaviruses.


To determine if the discomfort suffered by a patient comes from a simple cold or from a coronavirus, the doctor can perform a nose and throat culture , or even a blood test.
In cases of coronavirus SARS , a chest tomography is usually performed to determine the symptoms of pneumonia, as well as other blood coagulation tests, a biochemical analysis and a blood count. Antibody tests and SARS virus isolation are also performed.
For cases of MERS coronavirus , an evaluation is usually carried out for those who have symptoms and who may be prone to the virus.
The control of the temperature (with thermal cameras and digital thermometers) of people arriving at an airport from affected areas has been one of the first measures that have been put in place to detect possible cases of Wuhan’s coronavirus, as It was made with the previous shoots. Questionnaires are also made to travelers; In case of suspicion, they are subjected to evaluation and, where appropriate, transferred to health centers.


There is no vaccine against the human coronavirus that causes a cold , but milder cases can be overcome by following the same steps as a common cold. This does not require medical intervention and simply wash your hands frequently, rest and drink plenty of fluids , the symptoms will disappear within a few days. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol can also be taken to relieve sore throats or fever.
In cases of coronavirus SRAS, MERS CoV and 2019nCoV , hospital admission is usually convenient Antivirals, high doses of steroids are given to reduce pulmonary inflammation and respiratory support with oxygen; Sometimes you may need antibiotics, but only if there are supervening bacterial infections, that is, superinfection.
In summary, these types of respiratory infections are treated with antiviral and supportive measures. The treatment is usually adapted according to the severity of the patient, since there are cases in which severe pneumonia occurs, but in others the manifestations are mild.

Other data


Patient survival will depend on the type of coronavirus contracted:
  • The coronavirus cold have very high rates of recovery and affected virtually all get beat the virus within a few days.
  • The coronavirus SARS also exceeded in most cases, but between nine and 12 per cent of cases result in death of the patient. Young patients have more life expectancy, as they tend to have milder symptoms.
  • The MERS survival rate is less high, reaching around 36 percent in mortality, as specified by the World Health Organization.
  • It is still early to determine the mortality rate of Wuhan coronavirus (2019nCoV), but it seems lower than the previous ones.