Fact check: Busting the myths around the Coronavirus

TNM seeks to dispel some of the misinformation being shared around the new virus.
Fact check: Busting the myths around the Coronavirus
Fact check: Busting the myths around the Coronavirus

Fear-mongering messages around the spread of the newly-identified Coronavirus strain, which has infected thousands of people around the world, is contributing to the panic surrounding the disease.

“Korona virus, very new deadly form of virus, china is suffering, may come to India immediately, avoid any form of cold drinks, ice creams, koolfee, etc, any type of preserved foods, milkshake, rough ice, ice colas, milk sweets older then 48 hours, for at least 90 days from today,” reads one fake message doing the rounds on Whatsapp.

Screenshot of another Whatsapp forward about Coronavirus Outbreak

On January 9, the World Health Organisation confirmed the outbreak of the new (or novel) Coronavirus (also called nCoV), which originated in China’s Hubei province in a city called Wuhan. nCoV belongs to the same family of viruses which are responsible for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

Since its initial discovery, the virus has now affected over 2,000 people globally, with over 80 dead from the infection. According to the New York Times Wuhan has reported an additional 1,000 cases on Sunday. Confirmed cases have also been reported in Thailand, Japan, and the United States.

With so many messages and myths being spread, unnecessary panic can even act as a hindrance to understanding the truth. Here is some misinformation about the virus that TNM has fact-checked for you:

The “snake” flu

In the days following the onset of the outbreak, a study published in the Journal of Medical Virology stated that two snake species, the Chinese Krait and the Chinese Cobra, may have been the original source of the virus. However, these were speculations based on DNA analysis of virus samples and there hasn't been any confirmation. Despite this, several outlets dubbed the infection 'the snake flu.’

Following this, there was speculation that bats were the source of the virus. While none of this has been confirmed, officials have traced the outbreak to a market in Wuhan where both live animals and meat were being sold. The market has since been shut down and the government has imposed a travel ban on Wuhan. Several provinces and different cities have taken such measures and more are expected to follow suit.

From animals to people, to humans to humans: How does transmission of the virus really occur?

The new strain of the Coronavirus, nCoV 2019, was known to be a virus that affected animals and would spread among livestock. When the first few instances of a cluster of pneumonia-like symptoms affecting people were reported in China, experts were able to quickly deduce that the virus had mutated into a zoonotic virus, one which can be transmitted from animals to people.

Infected individuals host the virus in their bodies which can be spread when they cough or sneeze. This is why health officials advised the use of masks and precautionary measures, such as washing hands frequently.

It has also recently come to light that certain individuals can remain carriers of the virus wherein they have been exposed to the virus and carry it in their body, without actually developing any symptoms themselves. It is yet to be known whether carriers can spread the infection to a healthy individual.

Are individuals with underlying health conditions more at risk?

Several rumours arose among people that only individuals with an underlying or comorbid disease (such as diabetes, liver disease and hypertension to name a few) were getting sick and affected by the virus. While some of the deaths reported occurred in individuals who were diagnosed with an underlying issue, it should be noted that the initial 41 patients who were infected in Wuhan did not have any other conditions.

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