1. What should we call this new “coronavirus”? And why is this virus different?
There are a number of different names for this virus. This is partly because this virus is new, and as our knowledge of it improves, alongside how it relates to other viruses, so our name for it has changed. This section will cover some of the basics of what the virus is, how it is so named, and why it is different to viruses that we have encountered to date.
Originally called the “Wuhan coronavirus”, and subsequently “2019-nCoV”, this virus is technically called Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome CoronaVirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2. It is often still referred to as just “novel coronavirus”. COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) is the disease that the virus causes, not the virus itself. Patients with COVID-19 tend to present with pneumonia (with associated fever, cough, and dyspnea) and as such, chest imaging is critical to the ongoing care pathway.
SARS-CoV-2 was first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, and has since been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. It is genetically related to a prior pandemic in 2003, SARS-CoV-1 (which at the time was called just “SARS”), which originated in Guangdong, China, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome, also called “camel ‘flu”) was also a coronavirus that caused an epidemic across the Arabian Peninsula in 2012. The number of cases and deaths attributed to SARS and MERS were very different from one another; SARS caused over 8,000 cases in more than 26 countries but killed only about 800 whereas only 2000 cases of MERS have been reported, but one-third of those infected died. By comparison, at the time of writing, there have been over 1,345,000 cases of SARS-CoV-2 worldwide across 185 countries.