I am not a medical professional but I wanted to know more about the coronavirus. I compiled this information but if there are any inaccuracies PLEASE contact me and I will correct them. From my research this is a very short summary of what the coronavirus is and why it is so dangerous.
A virus is very small and requires a host to survive. The largest virus is smaller than the smallest bacteria. A virus has a core of genetic material encased in a protein RNA or DNA. Viruses reproduce by attaching to cells and converting those cells into new virus cells or cancerous cells.
Some compared the COVID-19 coronavirus to normal seasonal flu viruses but this is not a correct comparison. The seasonal flus are all human viruses that contain DNA/RNA that are recognized by human immune systems. A normal human immune system has some immunity to these viruses. You can have immunity through exposure to the virus or through a flu shot.
[Reference: WebMD: Bacterial and Viral Infections]
Novel viruses are viruses that have not been seen before. These could have been present and not identified or they might be present in one organism but not seen in another. Examples of novel viruses include swine flu (H1N1), Spanish flu (present in birds), bird flu (H5N1), and coronavirus. Normally these viruses only transfer between animals but sometimes the virus mutates and can be transferred to humans. These animal viruses are particularly devastating to humans because humans have little or no immunity to them. The DNA/RNA present in the virus is not recognized by the human body and the body has trouble fighting it.
Even if a virus can pass from an animal to a human it might not be able to be passed from human to human. However, if the virus mutates and can pass from human to human it becomes particularly problematic. The swine flu virus (H1N1) was deadly but its RNA mutated more slowly and was far less deadly then the Spanish flu of 1918 that killed perhaps 50 million people worldwide.
The coronavirus may have existed in animals for a very long time but we simply do not know. Sometime in late 2019 the virus was contracted by a human at an animal market in Wuhan, China. This form of the virus was contracted by a human from an animal. The virus mutated and (presumably) in a matter of weeks was able to be transmitted from one human to another. Most people have no natural immunity to this new virus so it spreads quickly and can have devastating effects. Some sources have erroneously claimed that the COVID-19 virus was first discovered in 1965. From Wikipedia: The name coronavirus is derived from the Latin corona, meaning “crown” or “halo”, which refers to the characteristic appearance reminiscent of a crown or a solar corona around the virions (virus particles) when viewed under two-dimensional transmission electron microscopy, due to the surface covering in club-shaped protein spikes. Thus, coronaviruses were discovered in the 1960s but the COVID-19 version was NOT discovered then.
The coronavirus seems to attach within the human lungs. It also seems to have mutated again and there are now two strains (as of this writing). The virus seems to be transmitted through droplets as generated by coughing and sneezing. It also seems that it can be picked up from a contaminated surface and inhaled primarily through touching the face. It does not appear to spread via simple airborne transmission (with no droplets). The incubation period seems fairly long. Several sources say up to 14 days and a few sources that I found stated it could be up to 24 days. The consensus that I have seen is 14 days.
Proper precautions are to limit social interaction and practice good hygene. Masks can be effective to help stop transmission from an infected person but most masks will do little to shield you from the virus. N95 masks, when properly fitted, would help shield you from the virus but these are in VERY short supply now and should be reserved for those with specific needs, such as healthcare workers.
Again, I am NOT a medical professional and this information was compiled from various sources. If this article contains errors or omissions please contact me so that I can correct them.