The Calm Before The Storm: A Look Into The History of the Coronavirus by Ayat Chapman

We’re almost halfway through the year of 2020, and there have been plenty of events that will be recalled in many people’s history books generations from now. The large majority of these historical oddities such as the wildfires within Australia and the recent health scare incident of North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, have led people across the world to be in a state of panic and confusion. Amongst all these events, the one that will undoubtedly be the most talked-about now – and the most talked about after it passes – is the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. 

When 2020 was just beginning, the virus was first known as a “pneumonia of unknown etiology (cause)” by the World Health Organization. Now, months later, the coronavirus is the social epicenter of countries such as China, Italy, and the United States of America. Currently, the US as well as the countries aforementioned and others are under lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On April 28th, 2020, America surpassed one million cases of the coronavirus.

The most bizarre thing about COVID-19 is that it seemingly came out of nowhere. It was not massively reported in the news until this year. It was not a subject of casual conversation until this year. Undoubtedly, the majority of the world understands that the virus is a big deal, but not many people know the history of the coronavirus past the developments that have happened this year. This does not change the fact that the coronavirus has been around for a long time and with more layers than some may realize.

The coronavirus form that the world is dealing with right now is just the latest addition to a large family of viruses that have been haunting humans and animals alike for decades. WebMD states that the first human coronavirus was found by scientists in the year of 1965. That coronavirus had only caused the common cold. The name itself would be created only a couple of years later from observing the pointed structures on the outside that resemble a crown-like appearance. The scientists from 1965 would not have been able to expect the devastation that would soon follow through the years as different coronaviruses would continue to pop up in history.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV-2 is one of seven different coronaviruses that can spread from human to human. It has been known to fatally affect people with previous respiratory issues such as the elderly. WebMD found a Chinese study containing 103 different COVID-19 cases that suggest that the virus has already mutated, creating two different strains known as the “S” type and the “L” type respectively. The S type is reported to be older, but the L type was reported to be “more common in early stages of the outbreak.” Scientists currently do not know which strain is worse.

The origins of the virus has not been directly pinpointed yet, but WebMD notes how experts suspect the origin to be from bats because that was “how the coronaviruses behind Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) got started.” After taking a look at the symptoms for all three coronaviruses, they all share symptoms such as a fever, dry coughs, and respiratory problems. t is highly possible that COVID-19 could have originated from a bat, but this claim is currently just a hypothesis. Bats were not being sold within the Wuhan wet markets in China when COVID-19 first started appearing in the world. Pangolins were also subjected to suspicion as WebMD also states that “Some coronaviruses that infect pangolins are similar to SARS-CoV-2.” News outlets such as The Guardian and Newsweek have reported suspicion of Wuhan Lab being responsible for intentionally causing the outbreak of the coronavirus, but these claims have been denied.  

Between the seven human coronavirus types, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that scientists have determined the four common ones to be 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1, and the three less common ones to be MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2. Compared to the more common human coronaviruses, MERS and both editions of SARS, SARS-CoV-2 especially have been known to cause severe, fatal respiratory problems. SARS-CoV-2 has already proven itself to be a lot more fatal with cases and deaths growing day by day. WebMD noted that the first iteration of SARS had only “8,000 people” infected and 774 of those cases dead. MERS had a lower case number of “2,500 cases” with 858 of those people dead. Of the seven human coronavirus types, SARS-CoV-2 is undoubtedly the most deadly virus yet within the whole virus family.

For many people, adjusting to a life stuck at home is difficult and hope can feel bleak. Right now, the world is doing the best it can to prevent anymore devastation from COVID-19. For anyone that is living in fear of the future amidst the uncertainty of the now, I advise that you make sure to spend time talking to anyone you trust. These people could be your friends, family, teachers, anyone you trust at all. When you have time, distract yourself with what you enjoy like music, games, movies, television, and other hobbies. Live in the present while you still have time because time is precious and should not be spent worrying.

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