With more and more cases of COVID-19 recorded worldwide, scientists are trying hard to discover the real source of the virus in order to prevent new outbreaks. Many speculations have been made, but a source that matches 100% hasn’t been found yet. Before we discuss the possible sources of the virus, let’s discuss a bit about what is the Covid-19 and what are its symptoms.
What Is Covid-19?
The name comes from the “Coronavirus Disease 2019” and it refers to the disease caused by this new virus. Coronaviruses are a family of multiple viruses that cause illness in animals and humans. Most of them are found in animals, but there are cases when they infect humans as well, such as the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and of course, the new COVID-19.
The Symptoms of Coronavirus Disease
The most common symptoms are:
- Dry cough
- Breathing difficulties
- Aches and pain
- Nasal congestion or a runny nose
- Sore throat
The symptoms start mild and may get worse in time. Most people (about 80%) recover without any special treatment. But 1 in 6 infected people become very ill and develop health complications. The most susceptible are older people who also have underlying medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions.
Since this is a virus, not bacteria, antibiotics are not helpful, nor do OTC drugs for the common flu. A new vaccine needs to be created specifically for this disease. The recovery depends on the strength of the immune system, and most of the people who died of coronavirus were already in poor health.
The Source of The Coronavirus
Now let’s discuss the actual topic of this article and try to find out where the virus actually came from. A few weeks ago, Chinese scientists suggested that the prime suspect is the pangolin, a scaly animal that eats ants. This creature is smuggled and sold frequently in China for its meat and scales, and it is known that some coronaviruses can be transmitted from animals to humans.
For example, the virus that caused SARS some years ago jumped from civets to humans. Many of the initially infected people worked in a live-animal market in the Chinese city of Wuhan, so it’s quite understandable why people believe that it originates from animals. But unfortunately, scientists have not fully confirmed this yet.
It all started with some miscommunication when a group of scientists said they found a coronavirus in smuggled pangolins that was a 99% genetic match to the virus spreading in humans worldwide. But it turns out that these results were not referring to the entire genome. A later comparison of the whole genome found out that the virus in pangolins only matches 90.3% of the human virus.
Other similar studies found that the viruses share between 85.5% and 92.4% of their DNA. And this is not enough to say precisely that the virus originates from pangolins. In the case of the SARS virus, the similarity between the virus on civets and that on humans was 99.8%, and that allowed scientists to precisely pinpoint the source.
The Closest Match
So far, the closest match to the human coronavirus has been found in a bat from the Chinese region of Yunnan. Based on a study published on the 3rd of February, the DNA match is 96%. But there are still big differences, which makes scientists believe that the bat did not infect people directly, but it transmitted the virus through an intermediate host.
Some people also brought up the question that if the virus originated from smuggled pangolins brought from another country, then why weren’t reports of people infected in that location? So the pangolin is less likely to be the source of COVID-19, yet ecologists are worried that people will start to kill them, just like it happened with civets at the time of the SARS outbreak.
So the source of the new coronavirus and a vaccine are still yet to be discovered by scientists. In order to protect yourself, make sure to always wash or disinfect your hands, to avoid crowded places and to wear an N95 respirator mask when needed.