Coronaviruses cause respiratory tract (breathing) infections and other infections that can be fatal, such as SARS (from cave-dwelling horseshoe bats), MERS (a.k.a. camel flu), and COVID-19.
Giving the virus a name
The surface of the virus has crown-like spikes which is why the name "coronavirus" was given from the Latin corona, meaning "crown" or "wreath". There are a billion nanometers (nm) in a meter. Coronavirus is approximately 125 nanometre (nm) in diameter, larger than bacteria but smaller than a human protein.
On 11 February 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the virus's official name. WHO has previously given the virus the temporary name of "2019-nCoV made up of the year of discovery, its status as a “novel” virus, and its family name (CoV).
Naming the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and the virus that causes it | World Health Organisation
Find the 'right' name
In 2015, WHO identified best practice for the naming of new human diseases to minimise the unnecessary negative impact of disease names on trade, travel, tourism or animal welfare, and avoid causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional or ethnic groups.
WHO best practices for naming of new human infectious diseases | World Health Organisation
Where coronavirus first emerged
At the end of 2019, coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China where there was a cluster of cases at an animal or wet market selling dead and live animals, including fish and birds. These markets carry increased risk of viruses 'jumping' from animals to humans. This is because hygiene standards (if they exist) are difficult to maintain where animals are being kept and butchered in the same place.
Furthermore, these markets are densely packed, making it easier for the disease to spread from species to species. Wet markets are common in East Asia and Latin America, but are also found in traditional open-air markets in Europe, North America and Oceania.
A Nobel Prize-winning immunologist has not said coronavirus is manmade, as claimed | Full Fact | 30 Apr 2020
According to the Independent, 13 April 2020, the World Health Organisation is urging countries across the world to close “dangerous” wet markets amid warnings about the risks posed by environments where humans are in close contact with animals. Wet markets in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged, have begun to reopen following the lifting of lockdown restrictions. This move comes despite the virus being linked to the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
But WHO, as well as other public health organisations and campaigners, have said the markets pose a “real danger” as pathogens can spread easily and quickly from animals to humans. Dr David Nabarro, a WHO special envoy on Covid-19 and special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for food security and nutrition, said the world health body “pleads with governments and just about everybody” to be respectful of how viruses from the animal kingdom are rife.
Coronavirus: WHO urges China to close ‘dangerous’ wet market as stalls in Wuhan begin to reopen | The Indepnedent | 13 Apr 2020
The coronavirus is closely related to viruses that infect bats. However, it is thought the virus was passed from bats to a mystery animal species that then passed it on to people. That "missing link" remains unknown, and could be a source of further infections.
Of course, there are conspiracy theories circulating that the virus escaped from a Chinese lab by accident or design. This is untrue and scientists are studying its virus genetic code have linked it to bats, probably jumping to another animal which then passed it on to humans.
Visual representation of pandemics over the centuries
"As humans have spread across the world, so have infectious diseases. Even in this modern era, outbreaks are nearly constant, though not every outbreak reaches pandemic level as the Coronavirus (COVID-19) . Today’s visualization outlines some of history’s most deadly pandemics, from the Antonine Plague to the current COVID-19 event."
Articles with an LGBT+ angle
We would like to clarify that while this selection of articles has an LGBT+ bent, coronavirus does not discriminate. It's a human kind health pandemic, affecting all of us.
What gay men can teach us about surviving the coronavirus | The Guardian | 4 May 2020
There's no evidence coronavirus was man-made in a Chinese laboratory. Here's what we know about how it began | Huff Post | 1 May 2020
Where did Covid-19 come from? What we know about its origins | The Guardian | 1 May 2020
Unique impact of coronavirus on UK LGBT+ community ‘will disproportionally affect us’ | Forbes | 24 Mar 2020
Coronavirus: three lessons from the AIDS crisis | The Conversation | 16 Mar 2020
How coronavirus is affecting the LGBTQ+ community, from drag queens to the HIV+ | them. | USA | 7 Mar 2020