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Coronavirus Questions Answered: Spreading, Mutating And Killing It

Empty shelves where the disposable wipes usually reside at Target at the Westgate Shopping Center in Fairview Park. [Andy Minderman]
empty shelves at a Target in suburban Cleveland

What are your questions about the coronavirus?

ideastream is answering as many questions as possible, with help from local experts in a range of fields. You can  send us your questions with our online form, through our  social media  pages and  group or call us at 216-916-6476. We'll  keep the answers coming on our website and on the air.

Kiana asked: Is it true the virus mutates, or is it deadly on its own?

Dr. Amy Edwards, an infectious disease physician at University Hospitals, said she’s seen reports out of China – where a majority of mortality has been – that patients come down with respiratory distress syndrome, or RDS.

“Basically what happens is you get an infection in your lungs, and then you have a very severe inflammatory reaction to that infection and you get what we call diffuse lung injury or diffuse lung response,” she said. “My understanding is that’s what’s killing a lot of people.”

There have also been some cases of pneumonia, she said, but there’s a lot we don’t know about the virus, since it’s new to humans.

That’s something a lot of people have questions about, like 17-year-old high school student Lorenzo, who wondered if the virus was new, since Lysol cans say it can kill coronavirus.

Lysol responded to this claim on its website, saying this outbreak is a new strain of the disease.

This specific virus is new to humans, Edwards said.

“Coronavirus, as a family of viruses, is something we have known about for a very long time,” she said.

Human coronavirus is one of the causes of the common cold. But this strain of the virus isn’t human coronavirus.

“Most likely it appears that it might be a bat coronavirus that has crossed over, probably via another animal, into humans,” she said.

That’s part of the problem, Edwards said, because humans don’t have any natural immunity to this strain of the virus.  


lisa.ryan@ideastream.org | 216-916-6158