Corona viruses are responsible for common respiratory infections, including the common cold. A novel corona virus is the organism responsible for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. Their reservoirs are common animals like birds, and are transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets, during coughing or sneezing. Corona viruses are found all over the world. They usually cause disease and outbreaks during the winter months.
Upper Respiratory Symptoms
Most patients with regular corona virus develop a self-limiting cold. The symptoms include low-grade fever, runny nose with clear mucous, nasal congestion, sore throat and a run-down feeling with decreased energy. Ear pain can also occur, as the nasal congestion prevents appropriate drainage of the inner ear fluid, resulting in increased pressure against the eardrum and pain. This fluid can then get infected with bacteria, resulting in an ear infection.
Lower Respiratory Symptoms
The novel corona virus causes SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. This is a life-threatening infection that should be suspected in patients with symptoms of lower respiratory tract disease and exposure or travel to an area where the SARS corona virus is endemic, for example China. Patients with SARS have high fevers, body aches and generalized weakness for the first few days following exposure. Some patients develop diarrhea, and can become dehydrated. Later, patients can develop a deep, dry cough; respiratory distress with rapid, irregular breathing; and shortness of breath. Patients typically need oxygen support. Eventually patients develop pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.
Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome
Acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, is a condition of inadequate oxygen delivery through the lungs due to underlying conditions like pneumonia or SARS. During breathing, oxygen passes from the main airways in the lungs to small air pockets called alveoli. From there, oxygen diffuses into the lung capillaries, tiny blood vessels that eventually carry the oxygen to the bigger blood vessels for distribution to the body's organs and tissues. In ARDS, the alveoli become clogged from the byproducts of inflammation from the corona virus, resulting in inadequate oxygen exchange. Patients with ARDS need oxygen support and may need mechanical ventilation to help improve the distribution of oxygen.