Coronavirus COVID-19 Diary
Progress of a Pandemic
Part 4 – 2023 – MOVING ON

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Jan Feb March

Briefly, where it began ....
This is the view from the market town of Ledbury, the heart of a rural community in Herefordshire, England. The county is set between the Malvern Hills and the border with Wales. Recording facts about the pandemic as it happens from direct evidence or reliable information sources worldwide. the town centre in Ledbury, Herefordshire

Background. Viruses are everywhere. Probably the earliest to be noticed and the one everyone now knows is the influenza virus. The word ‘influenza’ coming from medieval Latin meaning ‘(astrological) influence (of the stars)’ and the illness was first recorded by Hippocrates in 412 B.C.E. It is an orthomyxovirus and the form Influenza A has the potential to cause pandemics. The first viral pandemic was in 1580 C.E. The most recent were all influenza virus A. “Spanish” Flu in 1918, H2N2 strain (Asian Flu) in 1957, H3N2 strain “Hong Kong” Flu in 1967, H5N1 strain (Bird Flu) in 2005 and H1N1 strain (Swine Flu) in 2009.
The cold-weather Annual Seasonal Flu is a mild illness which has been common worldwide for many years. One influenza A(H1N1), one influenza A(H3N2), and one or two influenza B viruses (depending on the vaccine) are included in each season’s influenza vaccines.
The earliest virus to affect humanity was probably the poliovirus which is a picornavirus. It was first described in the UK in 1789. Because of widespread vaccination from the mid-1950’s onwards, polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere in 1994 but outbreaks have since been noted in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Around 1976 a retrovirus in Congo, West Africa passed from chimpanzees to humans and has since spread everywhere. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the body’s immune system leaving you wide open to other diseases. The illness, termed AIDS, peaked between 2005 and 2012 but to date over 36 million people have died. Another virus, a coronavirus, caused the SARS outbreak of 2002 in Guandong Province, China but the outbreak was only classed as an epidemic. Another coronavirus caused the MERS outbreak in the Middle East in 2012.

virus picture

The new coronavirus strain, SARS-Cov-2A, leading to the disease COVID-19, appeared in China possibly contracted by humans from live animals at a market in Wuhan or possibly an escape from a research labaratory in Wuhan. Previous outbreaks, SARS and MERS came from bats, via palm civet cats and camels respectively. The virus can be de-activated by soap solution or a 70%+-alcohol sanitary handwash solution. Since it appeared the virus has mutated into a series of variants of interest (Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda and Mu) and variants of concern (the first alpha, beta, Gamma, Delta and Omicron, the latest). The name comes from the corona or crown which shows up on an electron microscope.

virus electron microscope picture Virions of coronavirus (colored transmission electron microscopy image). Image Credit: Dr. Fred Murphy & Sylvia Whitfield/CDC


Barry Sharples, 2023