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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

The latest buzzword consuming all the headlines and articles lately: Coronavirus.


First things first: “coronavirus” refers to a group of viruses that cause a range of diseases from the common cold to MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and the newest kid on the block (the one we keep hearing about) 2019-nCOV. These names are just the abbreviations of long names that tell you more about the source and effects of the virus. Coronaviruses are called zoonotic because they can be transmitted through animals to humans, and right now, scientists are trying to pinpoint where the 2019-nCOV came from (recent suspects include bats, snakes, and pangolins).


Signs of infection in humans include fever, cough, breathing difficulties, and even pneumonia, kidney failure, and death. The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued prevention, treatment, and monitoring guidelines online (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public) that you can access and get regular updates on global infection and death rates. There are also helpful information packages regarding the use of face masks and how to limit transmission from person to person (think basic hygiene like washing your hands) and when to seek medical help etc.


This outbreak highlights how important disease monitoring and response teams are. Due to the nature of viruses and our habits as humans (condensed populations and livestock), the threat of outbreaks is unrelenting. A significant amount of money is being put into disease research. Hopefully, one day, we will have vaccines that help protect us against these kinds of viruses. But for now, keep up good hygiene practices and read up on credible news stories on the virus development!

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