Coronavirus: the truth against all myths

coronavirus_2020_ masks

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Arkaja Singh, a fourth-year medical student from Rajasthan, India. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


On January 30 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) declared the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak as a public health emergency. As of 30 January, total of 7818 cases are confirmed globally, with 7736 cases and 170 deaths in China(1), of these cases reportedly 124 people have been treated and discharged from the hospital and there goes the first myth of all that the infection cannot be cured (2). But are people totally aware about the disease? Do they have the precise knowledge about the spread, symptoms and precautions of the disease? Or are they just believing the misconceptions and myths that are spreading like fire in the forest? So, let us try and burst some of these myths, which you may have come across while casually scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram page.

Image: Reported cases of 2019-nCoV infection across the globe/

Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC)(3)

Coronavirus (microscopic appearance like a crown or corona) are a group of viruses of which some strains can cause diseases while some may not. Currently the Novel strain of the virus is spreading terror in the world. The virus is from the same family of viruses as of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome) but is a different from the two. The outbreak of virus was reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. People living or travelling near China where the 2019-nCoV virus is circulating may be at risk of infection. Those infected from other countries are among people who have recently traveled from China or who have been living or working closely with those travelers. This does not mean that one would contract the infection by being in contact with a person who has not been China in a long time or receiving a package from China, as no evidence of the virus surviving long on objects like letters, or packages has been reported (4).  The incubation period of the infection is reportedly 14 days and the virus can spread before the symptoms appear.

Some reports claimed that the virus was initially transmitted from the sea food market in Wuhan city, but the first case which was reported on 1st December had no link to the sea food market (5). The virus can cause infection in both animals and humans, but no case of infection from your companion animal has been reported. Human to Human transmission is more common. But it is always better to take precautions than to be sorry, therefore take extra care while visiting live animal market and avoid direct contact with live animal and surface in contact with animals, avoid eating raw or undercooked animal products.

Though the symptoms are like the flu, or pneumonia, but the vaccination against pneumonia will not provide you immunity against the 2019-nCoV. The virus has no vaccine and no treatment as of now, but research and clinical trials are being carried out to come with the treatment and vaccine as soon as possible. Antibiotics are not effective against the disease, since the infection is caused by a virus which takes on the host replication mechanism to replicate in the body causing it difficult to stop or kill. Regular rinsing of nose with saline water, or washing your hands, or gargling with mouthwash are good habits but there is no evidence that these habits has prevented one from contacting the infection.  Wearing a medical mask can help limit the spread of some respiratory disease. However, using a mask alone is not guaranteed to stop infections and should be combined with other prevention measures including hand and respiratory hygiene and avoiding close contact – at least 1m (3 ft) distance between yourself and other people. WHO advises on rational use of medical masks thus avoiding unnecessary wastage of precious resources and potential mis-use of masks, this means using masks only if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) (6).

References:

  1. WHO, situation report 10 on 2019-nCoV infection,

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/situation-reports/20200130-sitrep-10-ncov.pdf?sfvrsn=d0b2e480_2

  1. Statement on the second meeting of International health Regulations (2005), Representatives of the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov)

  1. Centers for Disease control and Prevention on 2019-nCoV spread across globe.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/locations-confirmed-cases.html

  1. WHO information on 2019-nCoV

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

  1. John Hopkins medicine information article on 2019-nCoV

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus

  1. WHO novel-coronavirus advice for public

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

About the author

Arkaja Singh is a fourth-year medical student from Rajasthan, India. She is an active member of MSAI (Medical Student Association of India) and is affiliated with IFMSA. She has volunteered for various Health awareness programs like Importance of breast milk, Immunization schedule importance on India and has organized two blood donation camps in her city. Arkaja is a regular visitor and volunteer in the Old age homes and is associated with NGOs working for poor and mentally unhealthy children.

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