Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large viral family, known since the mid-1960s, that cause respiratory infections in humans and animals. The new virus, which attacks the respiratory system, had its starting point in the Wuhan region of China, leaving the whole world on alert. Dubbed by the scientists of 2019-nCoV , it belongs to the family of coronaviruses, a group that gathers from infectious agents that cause cold symptoms to others with more serious manifestations, such as those that cause SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).
Some coronaviruses can cause severe respiratory syndromes, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome that was known by the acronym SARS of the syndrome in English “Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome”. SARS is caused by the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), being the first reports in China in 2002. SARS-CoV spread rapidly to more than twelve countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia, infecting more of 8,000 people and causing around 800 deaths, before the global SARS epidemic was stopped in 2003. Since 2004, no case of SARS has been reported worldwide.
In 2012, another new coronavirus was isolated, distinct from the one that caused SARS at the beginning of the past decade. This new coronavirus was unknown as an agent of human disease until its identification, initially in Saudi Arabia and, later, in other countries in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. All cases identified outside the Arabian Peninsula had a history of travel or recent contact with travelers from countries in the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.
Due to the location of the cases, the disease came to be designated as Middle East respiratory syndrome, whose acronym is MERS, from the English “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome” and the new virus named MERS- associated coronavirus ( MERS-CoV ).
Common human coronaviruses cause mild to moderate respiratory infections of short duration. Symptoms can involve runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. These viruses can sometimes cause infection of the lower respiratory tract, such as pneumonia. This condition is more common in people with cardiopulmonary diseases, with compromised immune systems or in the elderly.
In general, viral transmission occurs only as long as symptoms persist. Viral transmission is possible after resolution of symptoms, but the duration of the transmissibility period is unknown for SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. During the incubation period and asymptomatic cases are not contagious.
All coronaviruses are transmitted from person to person, including SARS-CoV, but without sustained transmission. Regarding the MERS-CoV, the WHO considers that there is currently well-documented evidence of person-to-person transmission, but without evidence that sustained transmission occurs.
In general, the main form of transmission of coronaviruses is through close contact * from person to person.
* Definition of close contact: Anyone who cared for the patient, including health professionals or family members; who has had physical contact with the patient; stayed in the same place as the sick patient (eg, lived together or visited).
Source of infection
Most coronaviruses generally infect only one animal species, or at least a small number of closely related species. However, some coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV, can infect people and animals. The animal reservoir for SARS-CoV is uncertain, but appears to be related to bats. There is also the likelihood of an animal reservoir for MERS-CoV that has been isolated from camels and bats.
How should the elderly prevent coronavirus?
There are simple and effective measures:
• Take good care of your health
• Stay hydrated
• Wash your hands more frequently
• Avoid contact with people from areas with confirmed cases of the disease
Another fundamental measure is to keep up with the vaccination schedule recommended by the Brazilian Society of Immunizations (SBIM) and by the Brazilian Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SBGG) .
It is not that there is already a vaccine available that reduces the risk of coronavirus infection. In fact, by protecting yourself from other infections, you keep your body stronger to contain the advances of this new enemy. Outside that vaccination reduces the risk of confusing the coronavirus with influenza, which causes flu, for example.
Now, although the world context is really alarming, in Brazil there are no confirmed cases so far. In addition, we know that the death rate from the disease is not high compared to SARS and MERS.
On the other hand, it is a virus with significant contagion capacity, which really requires effective preventive measures. Elderly people lose their functionality and become quickly weakened by an infection. There is little care!