The year 2020 will become known in history as the coronavirus season. This may not be our first time to encounter a viral infection caused by this virus type, but this particular variant that started in China definitely threatened and, sadly, ended the lives of so many people all over the world.
If the information about this viral pandemic still haunts you, let us help you understand the coronavirus life cycle, how you get it, how long this virus stays in the body, what symptoms you feel once you’re infected, and how you can get rid of it.
What is a Coronavirus?
The term coronavirus does not only refer to COVID-19. As a matter of fact, this virus has been around us for quite some time now, not only causing diseases for humans but also animals. Have you heard of SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2013? These are also diseases that made the headlines, all caused by a strain of coronavirus.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that got its name from its crown-like projections. If you look at a coronavirus under a microscope, you would see a little dot with little ridges or points surrounding the surface, looking like the top view of a head wearing a crown.
The truth is, most strains of the coronavirus only affect animals. They are typically seen in the noses of animals with respiratory diseases. However, as time passes, the virus mutated, allowing infection of humans.
COVID-19: A Brief Overview
It must have felt like forever, but it has only been more than a year since we fell captive of the coronavirus. This may not be the first time; we encountered some strains in the past that caused the same symptoms but were only isolated in some parts of the world.
However, one strain made an outbreak that affected the whole world in as fast as 2 to 3 months. Like a pandemic, it infected millions of people and killed more than 2 million people around the globe. This is COVID-19.
Coronavirus Life Cycle: Its Effect on Humans
The coronavirus is a type of virus that is typically seen in animals, like bats, camels, and birds. The main symptoms that they cause include respiratory difficulties. When it mutated and began infecting humans, it also caused the same problems. But how do you get infected?
COVID-19, like its predecessor, SARS-COV, gets passed through droplet transmission. This means that if a person infected by the virus sneezes or coughs, the minute particles coming from his mouth and nose can carry the virus, passing it on to people surrounding him. The particles may easily come in contact with the person’s hands or skin, and once he touches his eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus can then invade his body easily. In general, COVID-19 gets transmitted through:
- Droplets in the air from an infected person as he sneezes or coughs
- Physical contact leading to direct exposure to an infected person’s bodily fluids
- Touching surfaces without protection, then touching eyes, nose, or mouth (pressing buttons or holding rails then scratching your eyes or nose).
Symptoms of Coronavirus Infection
Once infected, a person may feel the following symptoms:
- Cough, persistent and productive
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of smell
- Loss of taste
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Body weakness
Note that these symptoms are almost the same as that of other respiratory infections. It does not necessarily point out to COVID-19. Some people may have flu, tonsillitis, or nasopharyngitis.
These symptoms, if caused by a virus, would fade away after one to two weeks. But if the culprit is bacteria, you need to see your doctor as you may need to have a prescription of antibiotics to counter the infection.
On the other hand, some patients who have been infected do not show signs of the disease. This means we still have to protect ourselves and continue following safety measures to help stop the development and transmission of the virus.
Severity of COVID-19
As you may have noticed, COVID-19 has the tendency to attack the respiratory function of the body. Most cases may feel mild to moderate symptoms, but there are those patients whose immune system could not fight back from the infection, causing more serious effects. If you or someone you know experience the following symptoms, we advise you to seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Moderate to severe breathing difficulty
- Low oxygen levels
- Moderate to severe chest pain
- Pulmonary edema
- Symptoms of lung injury
If a patient has lower immunity or has contracted a severe case of infection, COVID-19 can cause serious damage to the kidneys, lungs, brain, heart, and gastrointestinal tract.
Coronavirus Life Cycle: COVID-19 Infection
As we mentioned earlier, these symptoms tend to dissipate after a few days or weeks. Virus life cycle typically lasts for one to two weeks. But there are still some patients who experience persistence of symptoms which can lead to blood clot formation, mental or cognitive issues, visual problems, kidney damage, and ultimately, death.
COVID-19: Assessment, Treatment, and Management
During the early stages of infection, when the COVID-19 pandemic first affected the whole world, the WHO and the CDC made everyone who presented symptoms undergo self-isolation. Because the mode of transmission of the virus is through droplets, distancing yourself from infected individuals becomes the best weapon.
Swab testing became widely used to get a specimen from patients and suspected individuals in checking the presence of current or past COVID-19 infection. A viral test gives you an idea if you are currently combating the infection. An antibody test, on the other hand, determines if you have developed antibodies for the virus from a prior exposure or infection. Between the two, the viral test is more reliable in checking for active cases.
How do you Treat Patients with COVID-19 Infection?
The truth is, there is no medical cure for the virus. More often than not, viral infections are just waited out until the symptoms subside. What doctors and caregivers do to their patients gets dictated by the symptoms that the patients generally feel.
Fact or Fallacy: Antibiotics can cure COVID-19
The misconception most people think of involves the use of antibiotics. Once and for all, viruses do not respond to antibiotics. These medications mainly treat diseases caused by bacteria. So, for people who experience symptoms of COVID-19 who are unsure if the virus causes it, it is best to treat your issues symptomatically.
For instance, take acetaminophen or paracetamol for fever, and take cough medications or antihistamines for cough and colds. If symptoms persist, consult your doctor.
Coronavirus Life Cycle: Prevention of an Infection
Because COVID-19 spreads rapidly, there are effective ways that you can do to protect yourself from getting infected or even stopping the transmission of the virus once you are a confirmed carrier.
Covering your mouth and nose works for both patients and uninfected individuals. You can help stop the spread of the virus by covering your mouth and nose when speaking, sneezing, or coughing. Moreover, you also get protected from people’s droplets.
Always wash your hands thoroughly. Use a tissue when sneezing or covering your mouth when coughing. Dispose of them properly. Avoid touching the nose, eyes, and mouth. If soap and water are not available, carry a small bottle of alcohol and antibacterial wipes with you all the time.
As much as possible, stay at home. Direct contact with people can heighten your risk of getting infected. Those infected by the virus should self-quarantine, so you can prevent exposure of other family members.
If you need to go outside and do some errands, make sure that you keep at least 6-feet distance away from other people. This way, if they sneeze or cough, the droplets would not reach you, hindering the transmission.
As of this writing, there are now 3 pharmaceutical companies that developed vaccines authorized by the CDC (Centers Of Disease Control And Prevention).
- Johnson and Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals
The CDC wants people to treat all vaccines equally, not to look or to choose based on their brand or manufacturer, as they are all effective and safe. The three recommended vaccines have undergone meticulous clinical studies to help people reduce the risk of having severe cases of COVID-19.
Two more pharmaceutical companies have submitted their documents while in the process of developing their own COVID-19 vaccines. Astra Zeneca and Novavax currently undergo their phase 3 clinical trials to see if the vaccine is safe and effective.
Felman A. (January 2021). What to know about coronaviruses.
Denison, M. Coronavirus Research: Keys To Diagnosis, Treatment, And Prevention Of Sars.
Shereen, M. et al. COVID-19 infection: Emergence, transmission, and characteristics of human coronaviruses.
Weiss, S. and Navas-Martin, S. Coronavirus Pathogenesis and the Emerging Pathogen Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.
Bartolome, S. (April 2020). Life cycle of a coronavirus: How respiratory illnesses harm the body.
Vkovski, P. et al. (October 2020). Coronavirus biology and replication: implications for SARS-CoV-2.