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Coronavirus drawing
Coronavirus in nasal cavity - drawing

What is This Novel Coronavirus

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can infect birds and mammals, including humans.  You may have heard of the canid coronavirus that causes respiratory problems in dogs.  Other coronaviruses are responsible for SARS and MERS.  And others cause the common cold!

When a previously unknown virus pops up it is called novel; so this new virus we are dealing with is sometimes referred to as the  novel coronavirus.  The virus has been given the name severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).  COVID-19 is the name given to the disease the virus causes.

What is a Virus?

A virus is a very tiny particle that consists of a strand of genetic material (pink on the diagram) surrounded by a fatty lipid membrane (red).  Each type of virus has very specific protein molecules embedded in this lipid layer.

Viruses act by attaching to specific host cells by way of these protein molecules.  Then the virus injects its genetic material into the host cell.  The virus genes then take over the host cell and reproduce inside the host cell until it bursts and new viruses are released to repeat the process.

Coronavirus diagram

The parts of a coronavirus

How Does this Novel Coronavirus Cause Disease in Humans?

The virus is passed when respiratory droplets containing the virus from one person enters the respiratory system of another.  The virus attacks the cells of the respiratory system and causes the cells to produce at thick mucous. Other symtoms include fever, aches, extreme exhaustion and dry cough.  If this mucous gets into the lungs it can cause serious pneumonia.

Use This Information to Prevent Infection!

  1. Keep your distance  –  social isolation means staying away from others so that the respiratory droplets don’t reach you.
  2. Wash, wash, wash.  The lipid layer is actually pretty fragile.  Detergent, alcohol, bleach all dissolve the fatty layer.  Heat and even mechanical abrasion damage the fatty layer.  UV light from the Sun damages the fatty layer.  The virus can’t reproduce outside of human cells (like bacteria do), but they do stay viable on various surfaces for hours to days.
  3. Drink lots of warm fluids.  When viruses are washed down into the stomach they are destroyed by the stomach acid.  So keep the mucous flowing, keep the membranes hydrated.

Resources for Up to the Minute Information

What to do if you think you have symptoms of the virus:

Guidelines, statistics, updates etc. specific to Connecticut:

Best prevention measures:

Who is at highest risk of complications?

What Can You Do?

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