SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the world’s biggest viral outbreak since SARS, is sparking fears that the world is about to be overrun by a massive epidemic. But with this fear comes a significant amount of misinformation. In this article, you’ll find three concrete facts about the virus that causes COVID-19. These facts range from potential mortality rates and why these estimates are likely untrue to what animal hosts this virus likely came from.
Two Facts You Need to Know About Coronavirus
Coronavirus has swept across much of China after first appearing in the Wuhan province, sparking fears that a massive epidemic is about to run rampant across the globe. The disease, deemed COVID-19 by the epidemiologists working on stopping this epidemic from actually happening, is a lot like the flu but with some extra respiratory complications – symptoms include sneezing, coughing, and a fever. Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of misinformation spreading about the coronavirus (which is officially titled SARS-CoV-2) as it becomes more widespread. Fear-mongering news reports and tweets abound, giving people a false sense of how dangerous the virus causing COVID-19 actually is. That’s why you’ll find three essential facts about SARS-CoV-2 in this article.
1. SARS-CoV-2 Likely Came From Animal Hosts
One of the biggest pieces of misinformation that you can find is that SARS-CoV-2 was a genetically engineered super-virus, created by malicious actors to spread around the world. That is legitimately impossible and is simply untrue because this coronavirus is closely related to multiple other coronaviruses that have been shown to jump from animals to humans and cause disease. In fact, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) is caused by a virus that primarily is found in local dromedary camels that jumps to humans who spend lots of time near these camels. SARS-CoV-2 likely jumped from an animal reservoir host to humans in the open-air markets of Wuhan, where multiple animals like pigs, bats, and even koalas were concentrated in tiny spaces. These environments, combined with large volumes of people coming to purchase these animals, led to the perfect storm of the virus jumping to humans and spreading. However, it’s notoriously difficult to track exactly what host species a virus came from and whether that’s important for this virus. Instead, it’s important to know that human-caused living conditions for these animals likely caused this jump and not an effort to genetically engineer a new virus.
2. Transmission Modes Aren’t Fully Understood
Like most emerging diseases, a concrete understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from person to person isn’t totally understood yet. That’s why quarantine procedures are so strict across the world, from cruise ships locking down completely, to entire provinces of China not allowing individuals to enter or exit. However, researchers do know that close contact appears to be involved in transmission. Close contact suggests that the virus is likely contact-borne or spread through respiratory droplets (i.e., small particles from coughing or sneezing that can only travel small distances). It is unlikely that this virus is aerosolized beyond respiratory droplets, as transmission would be far more concentrated and widespread than it currently is.
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