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This article discusses pathophysiology and global health implications of human coronavirus infections, with recent highly pathogenic examples including the causative viruses for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), as well as current outbreak in China. These viruses are large enveloped positive-strand RNA viruses that usually come from animal reservoirs, and due to basic virologic features and logistics of healthcare provision, it has been associated with peak transmission late in the disease course, and high human-to-human and nosocomial spread. Experience with prior pandemics have informed initial response strategies to the current novel coronavirus outbreak in China, and the clinical and global health implications of this disease remain to be seen.
This article provides background information about pathophysiology and epidemiology of human coronaviruses, and lessons learned from prior pandemics that have informed a response to the novel coronavirus in China, whose ultimate global outcomes remain uncertain.
– Amy S. Korwin, MD
This abstract is available on the publisher's site.
Human coronaviruses (HCoVs) have long been considered inconsequential pathogens, causing the “common cold” in otherwise healthy people. However, in the 21st century, 2 highly pathogenic HCoVs—severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)—emerged from animal reservoirs to cause global epidemics with alarming morbidity and mortality. In December 2019, yet another pathogenic HCoV, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), was recognized in Wuhan, China, and has caused serious illness and death. The ultimate scope and effect of this outbreak is unclear at present as the situation is rapidly evolving.