Fact check: Coronavirus can’t spread via food or touch, ‘snake flu’ claims unconfirmed

The newly-identified Coronavirus strain has killed 106 people in China and has infected thousands of people in many parts of the world.
Fact check: Coronavirus can’t spread via food or touch, ‘snake flu’ claims unconfirmed
Fact check: Coronavirus can’t spread via food or touch, ‘snake flu’ claims unconfirmed
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The outbreak of the newly-identified Coronavirus strain, which has infected thousands of people and has killed 106 in China, has triggered panic across the world. The fact that scientists do not know what exactly caused the outbreak in China is also adding to the panic and now, many fear-mongering messages are doing the rounds on social media.

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. The symptoms of Coronavirus are very similar to the common cold and many people may not realise that they are suffering from Coronavirus. Officials say that since the cause of Coronavirus outbreak is not known yet, those suffering from common cold symptoms have been asked to take precautions and stay at home if necessary.  

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:

‘Coronavirus transmitted only by air’

A viral message doing the rounds on WhatsApp claims: “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."

This message is not true. Coronavirus is spread directly from an infected person to another via droplets in the air (via sneezing or coughing) and the WHO has said that the virus is not likely to stick to any surface, doorknobs or any such material and cannot be transmitted just by touch. As a precaution in general, people are being advised to practice “basic hand and respiratory hygiene.”

‘Snake flu,’ ‘bat flu’ claims unconfirmed

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 are only speculations based on DNA analysis of virus samples and WHO has not given been any confirmation. 

Following this, there was another speculation that bats were the source of the virus. This too has not been confirmed yet. 

Is the virus transmitted from animals?

There is widespread speculation that the virus could be transmitted from animals since officials traced the outbreak to a market in Wuhan where both live animals and uncooked 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. 

How does the transmission of the virus really occur? 

The new strain of the coronavirus, nCoV 2019, is 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, which means a virus that 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 spread among people that only individuals with underlying or comorbid disease (such as diabetes, liver disease and hypertension, to name a few) were getting sick and were getting 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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