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SARS: Diseases and Viruses of the Coronaviridae Virus Family

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  • 0:05 The Coronaviridae Virus Family
  • 0:30 Coronaviridae…
  • 1:46 Severe Acute…
  • 3:04 Middle East…
  • 4:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
This lesson will delve into two of the most important members of the Coronaviridae virus family. One of the viruses in this family caused a worldwide panic not too long ago, through a condition called SARS, and the other one is causing a panic right now, through a condition called MERS.

The Coronaviridae Virus Family

In this lesson, we're going to take a look at one of the most exciting virus families, that of the Coronaviridae family. I know what you're thinking, viruses can't possibly be exciting! But, I promise I'll point out some cool facts about coronaviruses as we delve into the structure, modes of transmission and some of the diseases associated with this family.

Coronaviridae Structure and Transmission

The viruses in this family have a single-stranded, positive sense RNA genome. They are of a medium size and their capsids take on a helical shape. What's really cool is that coronaviruses are pretty easily identified under the microscope. These viruses have an envelope with a bunch of glycoproteins that stick out like spikes.

These spikes form a very familiar looking shape, sort of like a crown that would sit atop a king's or queen's head. This is why the word 'corona' means 'crown' in Latin, and therefore, gives this 'royal' family, so to speak, its name.

The king and queen of this royal household are quite sick most of the time and are infecting their servants and serfs in two main ways. First, the queen sneezes quite a bit, transmitting these viruses via the respiratory route, and the king can never get off of his throne - the toilet that is. Hence, these viruses are also transmitted via the orofecal route. This means that something laden with viruses passed in the feces of one person, like contaminated water, will end up getting the person who drinks that water very sick.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome

While viruses in this family cause a wide variety of diseases in many species of animals, ranging from a cold in a human to a deadly disease in cats, there is one particular condition that has stood out above the rest, especially in recent years. This condition is called SARS, which is the acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The virus that causes SARS is known as SARS-CoV, which stands for SARS coronavirus.

You can think of SARS as a really devastating disease that would cause the collapse of our king and queen's dominion if left unchecked. That's because even though SARS will eventually cause pneumonia, its initial signs are tricky because they mimic the signs of the common cold and flu. This may, therefore, lead to an improper diagnosis of an individual, thereby delaying their treatment.

With delayed treatment and the possibility of rapid spread of the disease, the entire kingdom could collapse! Thankfully, SARS, which originated in Asia in late 2002, has not been reported anywhere in the world since 2004.

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

Even though SARS seems to have disappeared for now, a new form of coronavirus called MERS-CoV emerged in late 2012 to take its place. This virus causes MERS, which is the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

Let me put something into perspective for you. The case fatality rate for SARS caused panic around the world because it was around 10%. As of June 25, 2013, the case fatality rate for MERS is over 50%! If that doesn't catch your attention, I don't know what will. The chances of you dying are 50/50! You might as well flip a coin if you're infected! Quick! Run for the hills!

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