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How did coronavirus get its name?


World is under lock down mode and everyone has the name of the dreaded virus on their lips. Let us go into some history and naming methods for viruses and diseases. Earlier we had discussed about the facts and myths surrounding COVID-19.


Coronavirus is a category of viruses which cause illness and respiratory problems in animals and humans. Infections range from common cold to the more serious SARS & MARS. Most recently discovered virus causes the disease named COVID-19.

COVID-19 is a disease. It is caused by one of the recently discovered Coronavirus. This virus was discovered for the first time in Wuhan, China and it has been named by the WHO as SARS-CoV-2 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. COVID-19 is an infection disease.

How viruses do their work

A virus is a tiny piece of genetic code with a coat of protein cover. It does not have the structure of a cell. Any organism to qualify as living has to fit in the definition of a cell. However a virus can replicate itself which a non living thing cannot. Everyone agrees that virus lives on the borderline of life. Virus has been around along with life. It is present in every living organism including bacteria. There are millions of viruses around us. Virus causes a lot of diseases in humans like common cold, influenza, polio, chicken pox, ebola, AIDS and SARS.

When a virus moves, it needs a host mechanism to stay and then move to another host. Spread can be though touch or liquids. Once a virus gets inside a person, it attaches itself to the cells of organs. There it replicates and destroys the cells. It continues to destroy cells till either the body develops a defense mechanism to fight back or a medicine (anti viral drug) is injected in the body to destroy the virus. In case of a vaccines, they stop the virus from beginning of the damage.

How coronavirus got its name

Viruses not only replicate, but they evolve too. Mutate into new kinds of viruses. Sometimes they jump species, and other times they come out from the deep dark forests. HIV virus is believed to have come to humans by consumption of bush-meat. Coronavirus is a category of virus and in this group, just like others new virus are either replicated or jump from species. But whenever a new virus is discovered, first its family is determined and then it is named. The first coronavirus were discovered in 1960s, in humans and chicken. They were named human coronavirus 229E and human coronavirus OC43. Later we discovered MERS-CoV in 2012 and SARS-CoV-2 in 2019.

The name corona comes from a latin word which means crown or wreath or garland. It refers to the appearance of the virus which is a large surface with tiny projections or spikes.

The corona is commonly referred to the aura surrounding a star like our sun. Corona is seen during a solar eclipse.

sun corona

How COVID-19 got its name

Both Coronavirus disease and COVID-19 disease are the same thing. COVID-19 is the abbreviation of Coronavirus disease. The disease earlier was known as 2019 novel coronavirus but this name is no longer in use. It is the World Health Organisation who works on naming diseases and virus causing it. COVID-19 is the official name of the disease now. The virus causing COVID-19 is named SARS-CoV-2 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.

SARS-CoV-2 has a structure similar to bat coronavirus. This has led scientists to believe that the virus has jumped species from bats to humans. Since the initial lot of patients originated for the Huanan Seafood Market, leads to the strong suspicion that the virus traveled from wild animals which are freely sold in the market to humans. Although the market is named as seafood, anything from badgers to deer, peacock, bats and even donkeys and crocodiles are sold here. China has since banned the sale of wild animals meat in first Wuhan and later the whole of China. Sadly the govt is allowing the use of wild animals in traditional Chinese medicine.

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