Most individuals don’t quite understand what the coronavirus is, if it’s something new or not, or if it’s a much stronger version of the flu. In order to protect yourself and your loved ones, you have to understand what the coronavirus is. In order to do that, you must know the background of the coronavirus. 

What is the Coronavirus?

First things first, the coronavirus is not a single virus. According to health organizations such as, World Health Organization (WHO), Very Well Health, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus is a family of viruses belonging to the Coronaviridae (Co·​ro·​na·​vi·​ri·​dae)  family. 

 The coronavirus is named after its appearance of a spike protein that sticks out of its surface, making it appear like it is wearing a crown. In Latin, corona means crown so scientists decided to call the viruses the ‘coronavirus’.

The types of coronaviruses

As mentioned before, coronaviruses consist of seven viruses that can infect humans. These human coronaviruses were first discovered in the mid-1960’s. 

The four common human coronaviruses – 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 – are so common that they are referred to as “community-acquired coronaviruses” due to them infecting individuals from around the world. These are the strains that are responsible for people catching the common cold every year. 

People around the world commonly get infected with the human coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1 and can, will, or already have contracted one or more of these viruses within their lifetime. 

The three remaining strains – SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV – are more severe and can cause pneumonia and even death. The new strain of the more severe human coronavirus that we are currently experiencing, COVID-19, is caused by the SARS-CoV strain of coronavirus and can be considered the second version of SARS, SARS-CoV-2. However, SARS-CoV-2 is not the official name. 

How human coronaviruses are transmitted

The four common human coronaviruses spread from human-to-human. They usually spread from the infected person to the non-infected person through the air by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact, or touching an object or surface with the active virus on it and then touching their nose, mouth, or eyes before washing their hands.  

Typically, citizens of the United States are infected with the common human coronaviruses in the fall and winter seasons but some are also infected in the spring and summer.

The severe human coronaviruses first infect animals who then infect a human. This allows the infected person to infect other people, thus allowing the virus to spread globally.  Once this happens, the virus can then evolve into a new human coronavirus and cause a pandemic, which is what we have with COVID-19. 

Like the common human coronaviruses, the severe human coronaviruses can spread from an infected person by close personal contact or someone touching an object or surface with the active virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes before washing their hands. 


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