Skip To Content
  • Coronavirus badge

Netflix Has Released A Coronavirus Episode Of "Explained," And Here Are 16 Things I Learned

SARS-CoV-2 = virus and COVID-19 = disease.

If you're like me, and generally a little bit confused about the current global coronavirus pandemic, a great program to watch is the new three-part Explained series on Netflix all about it.

NBC / Via Giphy

Episode one just came out β€” and new episodes are expected to be released in the summer β€” but for now, here are some super-interesting takeaways from the first installment:

1. The official name of the current strain of coronavirus is SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19 is the name of the disease it causes.

Romeolu / Via Getty Images

COVID-19 stands for "coronavirus disease 2019".

2. SARS-CoV-2 is the youngest in a family of seven coronaviruses known to affect humans.

Vox / Via Netflix

MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV are infamous by now, but HCoV-OC43, HCoV-229E, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-HKU1 are actually more "successful" viruses, known to cause up to a third of all common colds.

3. The "corona" part of the coronavirus is named after the virus's crownlike spikes.

Vox / Via Netflix

Once the virus is inside the body, its spikes lock onto the proteins on the outside of normal human cells like a key.

4. SARS-CoV-2 can live on certain surfaces for hours to days.

Motortion / Via Getty Images

This means people can pick it up on their hands and infect themselves if they touch their face β€” something we humans do on average 20 times an hour.

5. COVID-19 can lead to any of these symptoms:

Vox / Via Netflix

6. You can also be infected with the new coronavirus and experience zero symptoms.

Famveld / Via Getty Images

This makes the current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak different from the SARS-CoV outbreak in 2002, in which people could spread the disease only when they had symptoms. While SARS-CoV was a lot more deadly, it was easier to fight because anyone who was ill would immediately isolate themselves.

7. Studies have shown that COVID-19 affects men more than women, but for as-yet-unknown reasons.

Vox / Via Netflix

Possible explanations have included random biological factors, the higher percentage of men who smoke, and that men may wash their hands less often, which is an incredibly important preventive method.

8. When a virus jumps from an animal to a human, it's called a "zoonotic" virus.

Wdnet / Via Getty Images

It's estimated that the animal population on Earth is currently carrying around 1.5 million viruses that are not known to us. Any one of these could begin to affect humans at any point, and indeed, for decades these viruses have been causing more and more outbreaks.

9. The most likely areas for new viruses like SARS to emerge would be wherever humans come into contact with exotic wildlife.

Uwe-bergwitz / Via Getty Images

Farms or settlements on the edge of tropical rainforests or areas with dense animal populations are more likely to become breeding grounds for zoonotic viruses. This is because settlers may hunt wild animals for food, or wild animals like bats may spread diseases to livestock.

10. Speaking of bats, they β€” like many other animals β€” are teeming with viruses because viruses don't really bother them.

Rudmer Zwerver / Via Getty Images

But any animal virus can transform into a new, more harmful virus once it gets into the human population.

11. And this is what some scientists believe happened with today's SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.

Vox / Via Netflix

Since the SARS-CoV outbreak back in 2002–03, a group of scientists called the EcoHealth Alliance have been testing bats in southern China for dangerous viruses that could spread to humans. A few years back, they found a low-risk virus they called "Bat CoV RaTG13". It has since been found that the genome sequence for Bat CoV RaTG13 matches SARS-CoV-2 by 96%, suggesting that it may have evolved from the bat virus.

12. Live-animal markets remain popular around the world but represent a real risk for the spread of zoonotic viruses.

Simonskafar / Via Getty Images

Markets like these can be found in China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Oman, among other countries.

13. One way we've beaten other viruses is through herd immunity.

Olaser / Via Getty Images

When certain viruses spread through a community, some infected people die, but others survive. Their immune systems have learned to recognise the virus and fight it off. When that happens in enough people, it makes it harder for the virus to spread β€” this is known as herd immunity.

14. Unfortunately, other coronaviruses don't grant lifelong immunity to those who have been infected, and we don't know yet whether antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 protect you against reinfection.

Vox / Via Netflix

Antibodies to SARS-CoV peak at around four months after infection, and protection against the disease lasts up to two to three years. But no studies have yet determined what protection antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 may give us. Our best bet to eradicate SARS-CoV-2 is to develop an effective vaccine.

15. Quarantine or its gentler cousin, social distancing, was used over seven centuries ago during the Black Death. / Via Getty Images

A prominent example of this was in Venice in the 1400s, when Venetian authorities imposed a period of isolation on potential carriers of the plague, usually sailors arriving back from Asia, of around 40 days.

16. Social distancing works β€” just ask the people of St Louis, Missouri!

Vox / Via Netflix

During the 1918 flu, the city of St Louis quickly ushered in social distancing, while the city of Philadelphia didn't right away. St Louis flattened its curve and ended up with one of the lowest infection rates in the US, with only 1,703 deaths, whereas Philadelphia had the worst: 16,000 deaths over six months. An example like this shows how effective social distancing in a pandemic can be, given that it's much harder to save lives if too many people become ill at once.

For more information about the coronavirus, take a look at the BuzzFeed News science section, and if you are worried that you or a loved one might be sick, please refer to the NHS or CDC websites.