2 Days ago I told someone that there’s a difference between Coronavirus and COVID-19, he didn’t believe me.
I don’t blame him, though. A lot of people, including some health professionals, do not know.
However, there’s indeed a difference between the two, because the two terminologies, Coronavirus and COVID-19, while often used interchangeably, do not always mean the same thing.
Wait, pull up a chair, now you’re about to unlearn a few things.
WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS?
Coronavirus, as we know it, is a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) type of virus, more appropriately named SARS-CoV-2, to denote that it is actually a novel virus.
Different from the other types of Coronaviruses. However, I will address it simply as “Coronavirus” in this context, due to the popularity of the name.
As you already know by now, Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2 ) was first seen in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China in 2019 when patients had a form of respiratory sickness that presented like pneumonia but the cause couldn’t be identified, hence it was initially called “Pneumonia of Unknown Aetiology”.
The viral particle was later identified, sequenced, and named Coronavirus on 7th January 2020.
Like many other related viruses, it is easily transmissible, but it hardly survives for long outside a host (human).
WHAT IS COVID-19?
This stands for “CO-rona VI-rus D-isease 20-19”. It is the name of the disease caused by Coronavirus.
In symptomatic patients, it presents first with symptoms of common cold, then it might proceed to:
– Difficulty with breathing.
It can further worsen in some people, leading to respiratory failure, altered consciousness, kidney failure, and of course, death.
WHAT IS THEN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO?
Simply put, Coronavirus is a virus that causes COVID-19.
When you talk of Coronavirus, you talk of the viral particle, with its unique characteristics; but when you talk of COVID-19, you talk of the disease, with its features.
A person may be infected with Coronavirus, but not have COVID-19 (asymptomatic carrier), the same way a person may be infected with HIV and not have AIDS.
When someone tests positive for Coronavirus, it doesn’t automatically mean that they have COVID-19. No!
It means they are CORONAVIRUS POSITIVE, and depending on their age, immunity and presence or absence of other diseases (co-morbidities), they may or may not come down with COVID-19.
It is the same with plenty of other viruses.
Example 1:- When someone is HIV POSITIVE, it doesn’t mean they already have AIDS, but we know it means that this person, depending on the strength of his immunity and whether or not he takes HAART (HIV drugs), could come down with AIDS in the future. Therefore, being HIV POSITIVE isn’t the same as having AIDS.
However, HIV leads to AIDS, same way Coronavirus leads to COVID-19.
Lastly, the major reason why Coronavirus and COVID-19 are used interchangeably is that Coronavirus is highly infectious with a basic case reproduction number (R0) of 3 (same as SARS and more than Ebola which has an R0 of 2).
Therefore, because of this high infectiousness, in many susceptible people, once the virus gains entry, it wastes no time in causing disease (COVID-19), usually within 14 days. In some of these people, before you even suspect and test them for Coronavirus, they are already manifesting features of COVID-19 (the disease).
And don’t forget we are in the middle of a pandemic that’s dealing with the world, with both the viral particle, Coronavirus, and the disease it causes, COVID-19, dominating and getting an equal share of news headlines across the world. Anyone, especially the uninitiated, could think they are the same.
Technically, they are not! Someone can test positive for Coronavirus and remain without symptoms. Such a person doesn’t have COVID-19.
Coronavirus is the INFECTIOUS AGENT, COVID-19 is the DISEASE it causes. It is that simple, really.
All COVID-19 patients have Coronavirus, but not all persons who test positive for Coronavirus have COVID-19.
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