Coronaviruses are species of virus belonging to the subfamily Coronavirinae in the family Coronaviridae, in the order Nidovirales. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses with a positive-sense single-stranded RNA genome and with a nucleocapsid of helical symmetry. The genomic size of coronaviruses ranges from approximately 26 to 32 kilobases, the largest for an RNA virus.
It can be found in animals such as chickens or bats. The virus can mutate and be able to infect humans, usually causing a pneumonia. Because the pneumonic cough spreads air droplets, it can spread human to human. Such is the case in Wuhan Province in China. About 400 people have been reported to be infected and 9 people have died as of this writing, but it will likely be more, of the disease. Death occurs from overwhelming infection and respiratory compromise.
There have been a couple other coronavirus outbreaks this century. The first and most famous was the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2003. SARS was first reported in Asia in February 2003. Over the next few months, the illness spread to more than two dozen countries in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia before the SARS global outbreak of 2003 was contained
In 2013 the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Most MERS patients developed severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. About 3 or 4 out of every 10 patients reported with MERS have died. Health officials first reported the disease in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. Through retrospective (backward-looking) investigations, they later identified that the first known cases of MERS occurred in Jordan in April 2012. So far, all cases of MERS have been linked through travel to, or residence in, countries in and near the Arabian Peninsula. The largest known outbreak of MERS outside the Arabian Peninsula occurred in the Republic of Korea in 2015. The outbreak was associated with a traveler returning from the Arabian Peninsula. MERS represents a very low risk to the general public in this country. Only two patients in the U.S. have ever tested positive for MERS-CoV infection—both in May 2014—while more than 1,300 have tested negative.
One patient in the US has been diagnosed with the current epidemic. It is a person in Washington State who was returning from Wuhan Province in China. That person is quarantined and all planes flying from the affected area to the U.S are being screening before entry.
So we are okay for the time being. But it underscores a threat to mankind that is often overlooked in favor of a nuclear holocaust, that of a pandemic. So far we’ve staved off a few such as the Bird Flu from Thailand in 2005 or so. A lot of people thought we overreacted and it was all hype. Thousands of chickens were destroyed in Thailand making very poor chicken sellers even poorer. That epidemic was contained.
We should be ever vigilant and have international cooperation to combat these as they arise and threaten us.