This is an essay on ‘coronavirus for kids’. It is deliberately written in simplified English to make it more understandable. You can use it as you want to.
Scientists have called the coronavirus Covid-19. It is a made-up word containing four bits of information. ‘Co’ means ‘corona’ because corona means crown in Latin and the virus looks a bit like a crown. Also ‘vi’ stands for virus and ‘d’ stands for disease. The number 19 stands for 2019, the year when the virus first hit.
The virus is incredibly tiny. It is a protein and it is 3.84 nanometres in size. This is 3.84 one billionth of a metre or 3.84 x 0.000000001 meter.
The virus hurts people and makes them ill because it gets into the cells of their body where it messes up the function of the cells. It gets in after its protein spikes fix to the cell wall. It normally gets into the body when people breath air with tiny water particles containing the virus. It can also be transmitted when a person deposits the virus on a surface and another person picks it up on their hand and then puts their hand on or in their mouth.
The coronavirus is a brand-new virus. It never happened before until late in 2019 when it began to infect the world and experts are trying to find out why and where it started. At the moment it is believed that the virus was inside a wild animal, maybe a bat, living in China.
It is also believed that the bat transferred the virus to an animal that the Chinese like to eat and which has lots of scales called a pangolin. Because the Chinese like to eat the scales of the pangolin because they think it makes them healthier they killed it in a marketplace. These marketplaces are called “wet markets”.
When a man killed the pangolin in the market the virus came out of that dead animal in blood and water. Somehow this liquid got inside the man. Perhaps when he breathed the virus was in the air and it went into his lungs. That man was the first to get the disease. We don’t know his name. From that single person the virus spread to other people rapidly and then within a few months many thousands of people in China were ill. It spread to other people because the virus was in their breath and in the liquid spray when they coughed. Other people breathed in the virus. This is why people have to keep their distance from other people. It protects them.
We don’t know how bad it was at the beginning because the Chinese government has kept quiet about it. But people think that from China it spread to Italy then from Italy to other countries in Europe then to other countries in the world. It also spread to countries near China direct from China. At the time it was the Chinese New Year celebrations which helped it to spread.
The coronavirus has infected many millions of people and some animals including mink in Denmark, domestic cats and tigers in New York City. This is called a pandemic which means a disease which infects (gets into) people living in many countries over a very large area. Some of them die and these are people normally with other longterm illnesses and old people. Young people can get the disease but they normally don’t become ill but they can give it to other people.
The virus causes a lot of problems that we all know about. It has stopped people having a normal life. It has stopped many people meeting each other and their loved ones and it has stopped many people working normally in an office. A lot of the fun has gone out of life and many people are frightened of catching the disease and becoming very ill. Sometimes the disease can cause a temporary illness but then it can develop into a long-term illness which is worrying. Doctors have learned how to treat the illness which has stopped many people dying from it.
It is also believed that the virus has changed and will change again which, in scientific language, means that it is ‘mutating’. This can make it more difficult for a vaccine to be effective against it. There are three mutated Covid-19 viruses at 14th Jan 2021 – UK, South Africa and Brazil. The current vaccines may struggle to beat the Brazilian one. There will be more mutations in the future.
Vaccines have been developed to combat the virus. These are very sophisticated forms of medicine which prevent the virus harming the cells of the body because the vaccine makes the body create ‘antibodies’ against the virus which shuts it down. People become infected by the virus but it doesn’t do any harm and doesn’t produce symptoms normally. ‘Antibodies’ are very small proteins in the bloodstream which fight infections such as the coronavirus.
The Covid-19 virus is changing which is normal for this sort of virus. The expert are concerned that the vaccines won’t work so well against these different variants (mutations). We will probably have to be vaccinated every year. Gorillas should also be vaccinated as they can get it from people.
People have said that if there was a better relationship between humans and wild animals the coronavirus wouldn’t have happened because people would keep their distance more from wild animals that carry diseases and they wouldn’t kill them in marketplaces where rules about killing wild animals for food are not good enough. Diseases which can make both animals and humans ill are called ‘zoonotic’ diseases as they can travel between animals and humans. At the moment the Chinese are being blamed for the start of the virus but more research needs to be done. Some experts say that humans have learned a lesson that they need to respect animals more otherwise another new viruses will start.
Perhaps in the future, if scientists do decide that the coronavirus started in China, some countries might ask the Chinese government for money to help pay for the massive financial problems caused by the virus which has damaged the economies of most countries and caused hardship for many people.