What You Need to Know About the Different Types of Coronavirus

Types of Coronaviruses

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illness in animals and humans. They are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface when viewed under a microscope. While there are many types of coronaviruses, here are some notable ones that have affected humans:

1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV)

SARS-CoV, the virus responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), emerged in 2002 in southern China. It spread to several countries, causing a severe respiratory illness with symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath. SARS-CoV was successfully contained in 2003, and no cases have been reported since.

2. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

MERS-CoV, the virus responsible for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. MERS primarily affects the respiratory system and has a high fatality rate. It is believed to have originated from camels and can be transmitted from infected animals to humans, as well as between humans in close contact.

3. SARS-CoV-2

SARS-CoV-2 is the coronavirus responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019 and has since spread globally, resulting in millions of cases and deaths worldwide. COVID-19 primarily spreads through respiratory droplets and close contact with infected individuals. It causes a wide range of symptoms, from mild respiratory illness to severe pneumonia and multi-organ failure.

4. Other Human Coronaviruses

Apart from SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2, there are other human coronaviruses that typically cause mild respiratory illnesses, similar to the common cold. These include:

– Human Coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E)
– Human Coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63)
– Human Coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43)
– Human Coronavirus HKU1 (HCoV-HKU1)

These coronaviruses are prevalent and circulate in the human population, often causing mild symptoms, particularly in young children and individuals with compromised immune systems.


Coronaviruses are a diverse group of viruses, with some causing severe diseases such as SARS and MERS, and others causing mild respiratory illnesses. SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, has had a significant impact on global health and societies. Understanding the different types of coronaviruses and their characteristics is crucial for public health efforts, research, and the development of effective preventive and therapeutic measures.