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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from

  • BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Georgina.

  • Covid-19 has changed everyday life for

  • people in countries around the world.

  • But coronavirus

  • wasn't the first pandemic to cause mass

  • sickness and disrupt daily life.

  • Between 2002 and 2004 an outbreak

  • of the disease known as SARS

  • or 'severe acute respiratory

  • syndrome' caused hundreds of deaths

  • in southern China before

  • spreading to other parts of the world.

  • The virus that caused SARS survived

  • by mutating - changing as

  • it reproduced itself in the

  • bodies of infected people and this

  • caused the virus to create

  • strains - slight variations

  • of the original.

  • Covid-19, the disease caused by

  • the strain of the original SARS virus

  • we are experiencing

  • now, has been called SARS 2.

  • In this programme, we'll be looking at

  • the origins of Covid-19 and

  • hearing new evidence

  • about the scale of the threat we face

  • from the disease. And of course

  • we'll be learning

  • some new vocabulary as well. But first

  • it's time for our quiz question.

  • We know that white

  • blood cells make up part of the immune

  • system our body needs to fight

  • infectious diseases

  • like Covid-19. But how many white blood

  • cells per microlitre does the

  • average adult human

  • need? Is it: a) 7,000, b) 17,000,

  • or c) 70,000?

  • Hmmm, in that case I'd say more

  • is better, so c) 70,000.

  • OK, we'll find out the answer at the end

  • of the programme. Now, Georgina,

  • you mentioned

  • that the disease spreading across

  • the world today wasn't the first

  • Covid-19-type disease.

  • That's right. In fact a recent research

  • project in China has identified

  • over 700 different

  • types of coronavirus carried by bats.

  • Some of these virus strains

  • are thought to have

  • already crossed over to humans.

  • Dr Peter Daszak of New York's Eco-Health

  • Alliance thinks that new

  • strains of the virus have

  • the potential to cause future pandemics.

  • He spent years in the Chinese

  • countryside looking

  • for the coronaviruses that could

  • jump from bats to humans.

  • Here he is talking to the BBC World

  • Service programme, Science in Action...

  • It would have been great to have found

  • the precursor to SARS 2, but

  • what would have been

  • even better was to have found it before

  • SARS 2 emerged and raise

  • the red flag on it and

  • stop the outbreak. But we didn't do that.

  • What we were looking for were...

  • at the time

  • ... our hypothesis was that SARS 1,

  • the original SARS virus which

  • we all thought had disappeared,

  • was still out there in bats ... and that

  • was what we were looking for.

  • So we found

  • a lot of SARS 1-related viruses.

  • Covid-19 may have been contained if

  • scientists had known more

  • about the disease's precursor

  • - that's a situation which existed before

  • something and led to the development of that

  • thing. Here, the precursor of Covid-19

  • was the original SARS 1.

  • Any new cases of the virus would

  • have been a red flag for another

  • outbreak - a symbol

  • of danger and that some action

  • needs to be taken.

  • Dr Daszak believed that some form of

  • SARS remained in bats and

  • based his investigations

  • on this hypothesis - an idea which is

  • suggested as a possible explanation

  • of something but

  • which has not yet been proved correct.

  • Another scientist working to prevent new

  • epidemics is the pathologist

  • Professor Mary Fowkes.

  • The original SARS was treated as a

  • respiratory disease which

  • attacks the lungs.

  • But when working with infected patients,

  • Professor Fowkes noticed that

  • Covid-19 was damaging

  • the brain, blood and other organs as well.

  • Clinicians have recognised that a lot of

  • patients that have Covid are

  • exhibiting confusion,

  • are not necessarily aware of their

  • environment appropriately,

  • some are having seizures, so

  • there are some central nervous system

  • abnormalities. And as you know,

  • a lot of patients are exhibiting

  • loss of sense of smell and that is a direct

  • connection to the brain as well.

  • In some infected patients coronavirus

  • attacks the central nervous

  • system - the body's main

  • system of nerve control consisting

  • of the brain and spinal cord.

  • When severe this can cause seizures -

  • sudden, violent attacks of an illness,

  • often affecting

  • the heart or brain.

  • It seems that Covid-19-type diseases are

  • not going to disappear any time soon.

  • Reminding us of the importance of the

  • scientific research we've

  • heard about today.

  • And the importance of boosting your

  • immunity - which reminds me

  • of today's quiz question.

  • You asked me how many white blood

  • cells per microlitre the human body has.

  • I said c) 70,000.

  • Well, if that's true you've definitely

  • boosted your immunity, Georgina,

  • because the correct

  • answer is c) 7,000.

  • Today we've been discussing the strains -

  • or slight variations, of the virus

  • which causes

  • Covid-19.

  • Covid-19 has a previous disease called

  • SARS as its precursor - a situation

  • which existed

  • before something and caused the

  • development of that thing.

  • Researchers used the idea that the virus

  • have passed to humans from

  • bats as their hypothesis

  • - possible explanation for something

  • which has not yet been proved true.

  • By identifying new virus strains, doctors

  • hope unexplained cases can act

  • as a red flag

  • - a warning sign of danger, to prevent

  • further outbreaks.

  • Knowing about new strains is increasingly

  • important as we find out more

  • about how coronavirus

  • attacks the body's central nervous system

  • - the brain and spinal cord, which in some

  • patients can cause seizures - sudden,

  • violent attacks of an illness,

  • especially affecting

  • the heart or brain.

  • So try to stay safe, wash your hands and

  • remember to join us again soon.

  • Bye for now!

  • Bye!

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The medicine of coronavirus - 6 Minute English

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    Jack posted on 2020/08/14
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