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Show full transcript for Coronavirus - What We Know Now video
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January 2021 marked the one year anniversary of COVID 19 in the United Kingdom. One year on, we know so much more about the virus itself, as well as its epidemiology.

Vaccines are being rolled out across the country, and we are well on the way to beating this virus once and for all. However we are not there yet. The virus has mutated into a more transmissible strains. Remember that coronavirus is the name of the virus itself, whilst COVID-19 is the name of the disease it causes. This is similar to the group of influenza viruses which cause the disease we know as the flu.

This new strains have been proven to be 50-70% more transmissible than the original. Whilst this does not mean that more people who contract the virus will be severely affected, it does mean that more people will, unfortunately, contract COVID-19. Viruses cannot replicate without what is known as a host cell.

The most recent findings estimate that humans are made of around 30 trillion cells. This does not mean, however, that all of these cells are viable host cells for coronavirus. As I am sure you know, coronavirus is spread via respiratory droplets, meaning tiny water droplets which come out of your lungs when you exhale. The virus spreads in this way as a result of certain cells in the lungs being the target cells for coronavirus. Consequently, you will not get infected by coronavirus if it lands on your skin; only if you then go on to inhale it into your lungs, and then the coronavirus can enter a cell before being destroyed.

This is where the new strain of coronavirus has undergone what is called a beneficial or advantageous mutation. The mechanism that coronavirus uses to enter into people’s cells has become stronger, meaning it can get into the target cell a lot quicker, giving our body much less time to destroy it before we become infected. As I am sure you know by now, the three main symptoms of COVID-19 are continuous coughing, fever and loss of the senses smell and taste. Less is known about the reasoning behind the loss of smell and taste, however the causes of coughing and fever are much clearer. A fever occurs because the body sends signals to the brain when it detects a strong pathogen, in this case coronavirus, and the body raises its internal temperature to help the immune system fight off the infection.

Continuous coughing occurs due to inflammation of the lungs, and in serious cases, this can develop into pneumonia. Pneumonia can be fatal if not treated quickly, and is one of the major components leading to death from COVID. It is also known that people with pre-existing medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or COPD, are at higher risk of the symptoms developing into severe disease.

Something that we do not yet know about the novel coronavirus, or its original variant, is the long term impacts it may have of both society and each affected individual. This is something that we will discover as time goes on.