Facts vs. Myths: What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus

Facts vs. Myths: What You Need to Know About the New Coronavirus

All your questions, myths and misconceptions on the new coronavirus answered.

The deadly coronavirus epidemic which started in China has since spread to 24 countries and sent the world into a frenzy. As fears and misconceptions regarding the coronavirus proliferated online, the World Health Organization (WHO) has started a campaign to educate people on the new coronavirus. We’ve rounded up a few facts we know about the new strain of coronavirus (officially named 2019-nCoV) and dispel widely held misconceptions and myths. 

Here are a few key things you need to know about the talk of the town.

What is the coronavirus?

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. They are also zoonotic meaning transmission occurs between humans and animals. 

Common signs of infection that should not be missed include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can give rise to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. 

Is Wuhan Coronavirus similar to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)?

The new coronavirus isn’t SARS despite sharing 80% of its genetic sequence with the virus responsible for the latter. Originating from the same viral family as SARS, it has some similarities, but it is an entirely new virus. However both the SARS and Wuhan outbreaks started in China and are believed to have stemmed from the wild animal markets.

Are masks or respirators really necessary?

Masks or respirators are generally not required for people who are well. They do not bestow automatic protection against the virus. Worse still, wearing a mask incorrectly can render it ineffective and instil a false sense of security. 

However, those who are sick with symptoms such as fever, cough or runny nose should put on a surgical mask instead of an n95 mask to prevent the spread of illnesses. Surgical masks aid in lessening the spread of the virus and are a more pragmatic choice.  All in all, practising good personal hygiene such as washing hands regularly and using sanitisers is more effective than wearing a mask. 

Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

In an era of online shopping, many postulated that one can catch the virus from letters or packages from China but fret not as doing so would not put you at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From analyses previously conducted, coronaviruses do not survive long on objects such as letters or packages.

Can transmission from asymptomatic individuals occur?

While person-to-person transmissions have been reported outside of China, the World Health Organisation is still probing if people who are infected can spread the disease before they manifest any symptoms of the novel coronavirus and there are no conclusive verifications as of now. 

Can pets spread the Wuhan coronavirus?

Presently, there is no evidence that domesticated animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the novel coronavirus. However, it is imperative to practice extra precaution and good hygiene by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water after contact with them. This protects you from common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella which can be transmitted between humans and pets.

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?

Vaccines against pneumonia do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.The coronavirus is very disparate and requires its own vaccine. However, researchers are ramping up efforts to develop an effective vaccine against the deadly virus.

Is it safe to travel to China?

On January 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the escalating epidemic constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). As such, many countries are urging residents to avoid all non-essential travel to China. International travellers are also advised to practice usual precautions. 

Can consuming garlic aid in preventing infection with the new coronavirus?

Garlic is a healthy food that boasts antimicrobial properties (the ability to destroy or hinder the growth of microorganisms especially pathogenic microorganisms) but there is no evidence to corroborate that eating garlic has protected people from the Wuhan coronavirus.

Does the new coronavirus only affect older people?

People from all walks of life regardless of age can be infected by the new coronavirus. Older people, people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) and those with compromised immune systems appear to be more vulnerable to becoming critically ill with the virus. 

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

Antibiotics work against bacterias, not viruses like the new coronavirus therefore it should not be administered as a means of treatment or prevention. However, you may have to begin a course of antibiotics should you be hospitalised for the novel coronavirus as bacterial coinfection is plausible. 

Can traditional Chinese medicines help fight the Wuhan coronavirus?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus to date. They may be popular but are clinically unproven.

As the crisis continues to unfold, be mindful of fake news bandied about to resolutely amplify needless fear and confusion. Turn to official or trustworthy sources for accurate and up-to-date information. In the meantime, remember to stay safe!

Also read: Wuhan Virus Update: All Countries and Airlines Imposing Travel Bans and Suspending Flights to China

About Author

Ifah Sakinah
Ifah Sakinah

Sakinah has a discerning palate and an innate desire to satisfy her inner curiosity. While she hasn't been everywhere, it's definitely on her list.


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