10 myths about the coronavirus, including a link to meat-eating and imported packages
- Misinformation about the coronavirus is spreading rapidly on the internet.
- Despite what you might've heard, you cannot get the virus from an imported package or a pet, and garlic and sesame oil will not help treat it.
- The best way to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and other viral illnesses, is to stay home when you're sick, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage for more stories.
The novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, is new, deadly, and spreading fast.
As of Monday, at least 362 people have died from the virus, and another 17,400 have been confirmed ill with the virus that prompts fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
The US has issued a mandatory quarantine for citizens and their families coming back from Hubei province in China, where the disease originated in December. There is no treatment or vaccine for the virus, which scientists suspect originated in bats, and might've hopped into an intermediary host animal, before infecting people.
Still, some are peddling fake misinformation about where the virus comes from, and how to "cure" it, as people around the globe hunger for easy answers to combat the spread of this new and relatively unknown virus.
Here are a few of the most egregious claims we've heard so far, as well as some of the best advice from experts on how to actually stay healthy and disease-free.
First, it's important to know there is no treatment or medicine for the illness. Taking antibiotics won't help, since it's a virus, and not bacterial.
Treatment for the Wuhan coronavirus is a lot like the flu. Patients are advised to rest up and drink plenty of fluids.
In severe cases, people having trouble breathing may need oxygen support. So far, older people are more susceptible than youngsters under 15, and most of the fatal cases have been among the elderly and patients with preexisting health conditions.
There is no vaccine for the coronavirus yet.
Though the virus is believed to have originated in bats, there's no evidence that meat-eating is linked to the coronavirus, and you can't get it from your pets.
People can spread the coronavirus to each other by having close contact (usually virus particles get passed around within six feet (1.8 metres) of an infected person), but there's no good evidence that cats and dogs can get infected.
It's true that scientists suspect that the virus might've originated in a Chinese wet market, where people coexist in cramped quarters alongside animals both alive and dead, but it's not accurate to say that the virus is linked eating meat, as Peta UK has.
"We get new viruses all the time," Dr. Robert Amler, Dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice at New York Medical College and a former chief medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Business Insider. "There's so much commerce and exchange between people that it is fully expected that some of these cases will spread."
The virus is very fragile outside the human body, which means you can't get it from a package or an envelope.
Some people have raised concerns that they might be able to contract the coronavirus from imported goods packed by people in other countries who might be sick.
Public health experts point out that the virus can only live for a few hours on hard surfaces, and the only way it's being spread between people is through close contact.
For example, the first case of human to human transmission in the US was between a husband and wife who live together. Other cases have also been spread between patients and doctors in Chinese hospitals.
The coronavirus particles are very heavy, and usually fall to the ground right around a sick person, rather than lingering in the air. This makes the virus far less contagious than some others, like the measles. Epidemiologists studying the novel coronavirus have found that a single infected person tends to spread their illness to between one and three other people, much like the seasonal flu.
So far, children have proven rather resilient to this virus, much like SARS. A mother with the novel coronavirus reportedly gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby, and the average age of coronavirus patients, in one recent Lancet study, was about 55 years old.
Do not use any "miracle mineral solution" to combat the virus. It's industrial bleach, and it is dangerous and unhelpful.
As Business Insider's Gabby Landsverk previously reported, "the 'miracle mineral solution,' as it's known online (MMS for short), is a solution of 28% sodium chlorite in distilled water."
The substance is not a cure for the coronavirus, but it is dangerous to human health, and it can prompt severe vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and acute liver failure.
However, some bleach-based cleaners are helpful for cleaning surfaces.
The World Health Organisation said "bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, ether solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and cholorform" are all great ways to kill 2019-nCoV on surfaces.
But the chemicals are dangerous when people put them on their skin, under their noses, or in their mouths, and they have "little or no impact on the virus" that way, the WHO said.
Likewise, algae is not a treatment for the new coronavirus.
There is some evidence that red marine algae may inactivate certain viruses, like the ones that cause common cold sores (herpes). But the same hasn't been shown of the novel coronavirus.
"The problem is that there are some 4,000 species of such algae, some of which may work against some viral infections but not against others," McGill's Office for Science and Society wrote online. "Without any regulations about proper labeling and without any requirement for verification of contents, it is a crap shoot."
Nevertheless, at least one "holistic" healer, Gabriel Cousins, told his followers in a recent email that they should use red algae to prevent and potentially treat the coronavirus, even though no scientist has ever studied the effect of red algae on this virus.
"I can't make a claim for the effectiveness of red algae against the coronavirus," Cousins said.
Nor will eating garlic or sesame oil do much for you.
The WHO also said that garlic "may have some antimicrobial properties," but there's no reason to believe it may ward off the coronavirus, and sesame oil (either applied topically or ingested) won't kill the virus either.
Rinsing your nose with saline or gurgling mouthwash will not prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Yes, some kinds of mouthwash can kill microbes in your mouth, and rinsing your nostrils out (like with a neti pot) can feel very good if you have a stuffed up nose, but neither will prevent the spread of coronaviruses either.
There are a few basic, science-backed things everyone can do to prevent the spread of the novel Wuhan coronavirus. Number one, wash your hands.
Frequently, and with soap and water.
"If I could teach one thing to the public that would prevent most of the diseases that I have to deal with, it would be wash your hands and teach your children how to wash hands," Dr. Sherlita Amler, an adjunct professor of public health at New York Medical College and Commissioner of Health in Westchester County, said Friday. "Believe it or not, most people do not have much of an idea how they really should wash their hands, and in fact, I think some people actually try to do it without getting their hands wet."
Amler said it's important to use soap, and that "it's the frictional movement of your hands that actually gets the bacteria off of your hands."
Hand sanitiser is helpful in a pinch, but nothing beats soap and water followed by a dry-off with a paper towel.
Getting your flu shot (if you haven't already) is also a great way to protect yourself from viral illnesses this season.
Dr Amler said it's a great way to help yourself remain calm in this outbreak.
"It's much less likely that you're going to have the flu, which means you're less likely to have respiratory symptoms, which means you're less likely to feel anxious that 'oh my God, do I have this new disease that they're talking about?' Probably not. You probably had the flu."
Stay away from sick people, and don't go to work or school if you're sick.
"If you're ill, your family members are ill, stay home, don't spread those diseases," Dr. Amler said. "Basically that's what they've done in China, they have isolated everyone."
And remember, face masks don't really help much, unless you are putting them on people who are already sick and coughing.
Dr. Amler said one reason face masks are flying off shelves around the globe right now might be more psychological than preventative.
"I think the problem is they don't know what else to do," Dr. Amler said of people wearing masks. "They're just trying anything that they can do to help prevent themselves from getting sick."
Her husband, also Dr. Amler, agreed.
"Paper, surgical-type masks that you see in operating rooms ... these are designed to prevent your own coughing and excretions from getting into other people," he said. "They are really not to protect the wearer, they're designed to protect the people all around you."
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