The name of the virus has rapidly evolved since the first cases in early December 2019 and the recognition that it was a new virus in late December. RNA viruses have been traditionally named after their location of discovery, so the initial designation was Wuhan coronavirus. However, no one wants it named after their place, so the agreed naming of the disease is COVID-19 (COronavirus VIrus Disease-2019) and the virus is coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The sequence of the virus was released in January and made it clear that this virus is from a bat and related to SARS and MERS, but more closely to SARS; thus, SARS is part of the name. The other bat coronaviruses came to humans via another mammal (civet for SARS and camel for MERS) and that is also suspected for the new virus. The sequence also means that the conspiracy hypothesis about this being a lab-adapted virus are false. It also means that fish or snakes cannot be the intermediate hosts.
About the COVID-19 illness
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The two main symptoms of COVID-19 are fever and cough. The initial case definition also included shortness of breath, but that is true only for those who are more seriously ill. Runny nose and sore throat are very uncommon, so their presence suggests a different virus. Seek medical attention if you have these symptoms or have travelled to abroad or have been in contact with someone who travelled abroad in the last 14 days or if you have had contact with someone diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19.
How does SARS CoV-2 (COVID-19) spread?
SARS CoV-2 spreads through droplets which are released when people sneeze or cough. These droplets can only travel up to one meter and cause infection when they contact the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose or eyes. The infection may also spread from contaminated surfaces, but plays a lesser role.
Why doesn’t a mask work for protection?
The virus leaves the other person in the form of respiratory droplets. They cause infection when they land on mucous membranes (mouth, eyes).
They may land directly there or they may do it indirectly. That could be from those droplets getting on the infected person’s hand; he then touches you and you touch your mouth or eyes. Or he may cough on you and then you rub your eyes. Or it may be droplets that land on a counter next to you and then you touch it and then your face. The virus doesn’t survive a long time on an inanimate object.
The above means that the only thing the mask prevents is the virus coming in a droplet and landing on your mouth. It may make a bit of a difference but there are so many exposures it doesn’t prevent, that overall it isn’t worth using for routine purposes. For people taking care of COVID-19 patients, they wear a surgical mask and if doing high risk procedures, they wear an N95.