Coronavirus: The truth against the myths

outbreak covid

(Markus Spiske, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Polite Mabhena, the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Medical Students Association at the National University of Science and Technology since August 2019. He 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.

Coronaviruses are a family of enveloped, single stranded RNA viruses, previously only known to cause the common cold in humans (Gladwin, Trattler, & Mahan, 2014). Surface projections look like a crown under electron microscopy, hence the name – coronaviruses. Three major strains: human coronaviruses (HCoV) 229E and OC43 and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) (Elliott, Casey, Lambert, & Sandoe, 2011); and the novel 2019 coronavirus (2019-nCoV). HCoV have a worldwide distribution and infections occur throughout the year, affecting all age groups equally. A SARS-CoV epidemic started in 2002 in southern China, from where it spread to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Canada, Taiwan, Thailand and other parts of the world. The epidemic ended in 2003, affecting 8,500 patients (95% in Asia) with a mortality rate of 9.5%.The incubation period is 2–5 days for HCoV and 2–10 days for SARS-CoV. Transmission is by respiratory droplets, aerosols and possible faecal-oral route for SARS-CoV. Replication takes place in the epithelial cells of the respiratory tract and gut with development of strain-specific antibody. Asymptomatic shedding in faeces is common.

Copious puzzling school of thoughts concerning the 2019 novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have arisen. This article aims at discerning the truth from the myths about this novel coronavirus.

  1. Coronavirus is an opportunistic infection

The belief that the virus infects only those individuals with an underlying ailment, thus the immunocompromised is not true. The virus infects everyone, the healthy and the sick. Everyone is at risk of infection by this virus.

  1. Flu shots can prevent the coronavirus

Yes flu and common cold are both respiratory illnesses and they exhibit similar symptoms but it worth noting that they are caused by different viruses. The influenza virus is different from the coronavirus and hence the flu vaccine cannot prevent infection by the coronavirus.

  1. Face masks can prevent infection by the coronavirus

Face masks have become very common in mainland China and Hong-Kong however it is important to note that the ordinary surgical face masks cannot protect against the novel 2019 coronavirus (2019-nCoV). A more specialized mask, known as an N95 respirator, can protect against the new coronavirus, also called 2019-nCoV. The respirator is thicker than a surgical mask but it is challenging to put these masks on and wear them for long periods of time. Specialists receive retraining annually on how to properly fit these respirators around the nose, cheeks and chin, ensuring that wearers do not breathe around the edges of the respirator (Geggel, 2020).

  1. Transmission is from a bat soup

There is no clinical evidence suggesting that the (2019-nCoV) came from the bat soup. The viral video of the woman eating bat soup has been claimed to be taken four years back in Palaui island.

  1. Coronavirus is deadlier than flu

Coronavirus causes common colds. Common cold and flu have similar symptoms; it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms are more intense (CDC, 2019).


CDC. (2019, December 30). Cold Versus Flu. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Elliott, T., Casey, A., Lambert, P., & Sandoe, J. (2011). Medical Microbiology and Infection. West Sussex: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Geggel, L. (2020, February 1). Can wearing a face mask protect you from the new coronavirus? Retrieved from Live Science:

Gladwin, M., Trattler, W., & Mahan, S. (2014). Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple. Miami: MedMaster Inc.

About the author

Polite Mabhena is the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Medical Students Association at the National University of Science and Technology since August 2019. He is an active
member and Co-founder of the “Together for a Responsible Youth” (TRY) Initiative, one of
whose agenda is to raise Public Health awareness in Rural Schools in Zimbabwe. TRY
initiative shares the same agenda with one of the subcommittees of the Zimbabwe Medical Students Association, the Subcommittee On Public Health (SCOPH). Polite is an active member of the community, he is also the founder of the renowned “Active Bulawayo Youths” club, which has visited almost all of the Children’s Homes, Geriatric Homes and Day care Centres in Bulawayo helping with issues concerning cleanliness. Polite is also a proud member of the Rotary Club of Bulawayo South. Apart from his extracurricular activities, Polite is an aspiring Cardiothoracic Surgeon with the hope of saving many lives as the lifestyles that most people are adopting these days predisposes them to cardiac problems.


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