Coronavirus first emerged in the mid-1960s and there are seven different versions of the virus broken into four groups: alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.
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There are seven different human coronavirus. They were given the name coronavirus – corona meaning crown – due to the crown-like spike on their surface according to centers for disease control and prevention.
Common human coronaviruses
- 229E (alpha coronavirus)
- NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
- OC43 (beta coronavirus)
- HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
Other human coronaviruses
- MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
- SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
- SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19)
Each of them has different characteristics. 229E, for example, causes symptoms like those present in the common cold according to one paper. Many of these strands are present in upper and lower repiratory infections. SARS-CoV was first reported in the early 00’s. It has only recently been introduced to the human population. That is to say it is not new, just new to humans. Other strands such as HKU1 and NL63 are present in many upper and lower respiratory infections. The first cultured human coronavirus (B814) was obtained from a boy with a typical common cold in 1965 and research and studies from that point on continued to find the virus mutating and appearing in different forms with various, but often similar, symptoms such as nasal congestion, fever and coughing.
SARS-CoV is the most aggressive version of coronaviruses and in 2003, it killed 800 people. That was a harbinger of what was to come regarding the potential of mutating coronavirus and the effect it could have on the world as we are currently seeing during the current pandemic.