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If you’re over the age of 70, are pregnant, or have underlying health conditions, then it’s been drummed into you for weeks that you are the most at risk from coronavirus.
But as the death toll across the globe mounts, more and more cases have been reported of young and healthy people succumbing fatally to what, for most, should be a mild illness. How can that happen?
What is a coronavirus?
A coronavirus is actually the general name for a family of viruses that includes Sars-CoV2, the specific virus responsible for current global pandemic known as Covid-19.
Others include the non-lethal common cold, sometimes fatal seasonal flu, and the far more deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (Mers), which has a fatality rate of around 34%.
How do coronaviruses kill people?
All coronaviruses cause similar symptoms – but their severity varies, which accounts for how fatal they can be.
Professor Ravi Gupta, of the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease, told HuffPost UK: ”The feature they share is respiratory distress syndrome, which is characterised by the lungs filling up with inflamed cells.”
In mild cases, this inflammation can cause a cough and a sore throat, but in severe cases it can escalate, “essentially stopping oxygen from reaching your blood”, Professor Gupta adds.
Even in non-fatal cases, this can still be extremely unpleasant.
At the beginning of March, 29-year-old Daryl Doblados was well enough to run the Cambridge Half Marathon. Just two weeks later he was being rushed to hospital because his lungs felt like they were “filling up with smoke or liquid”.
In a video posted on Facebook, he said: “I struggled to breathe. I’ve never experienced anything like this before.”
What do we actually know about Sars-CoV2?
Very little compared to other coronaviruses. simply because it’s only been around for a few...