The Novel Coronavirus: The Truth against the Myths

covid-19 2020_

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Nelson Udeme-Abasi, a final year medical student of the University of Uyo Nigeria with over 3 years of experience in volunteering, advocacy and student leadership. 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.

On 30 January, 2020 the World Health Organization WHO declared the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) as a public health emergency of international concern PHEIC. This came after an extensive deliberation involving the WHO Director General , the advisory committee of the International Health Regulation(2015) and the health representatives of the Republic of China and other countries which have been badly hit by the 2019-nCoV.  The 2019-nCoV is a new strain of the coronavirus spectrum, some of which have been implicated in the causation of common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS-CoV and the middle east respiratory syndrome MERS-CoV.

From past experiences during epidemics, the global health response always involved heightened health surveillance, increased technical support and resource provision for affected loci, as well as public sensitization on hygienic and behavioural approaches to prevent being infected and reduce mortality. The truth however is that in the face of an epidemic, myths would usually thrive because for the general populace, desperation is the truest impulse to an emergency. So many persons seem to lose their caps of rationality in periods like this. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak that ravaged many countries in West Africa, there were reports in Nigeria of people who died or were hospitalised due to non-ebola related causes in an attempt to prevent being infected. These included excessive consumption of salt or burns from bathing with water at extremes of temperature, despite the national ministry of health’s effort at public sensitization about the disease.

In the case of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, myths have as usual surfaced, this time with potential to promote antibiotic resistance, ostracize old relatives and household pets, and to deface the image of a Mexican beverage brand known as Corona Extra. People have spuriously claimed that the 2019-nCoV can be treated with antibiotics and homemade miracle mixtures. Some others say pets and old people are most likely to be infected by the virus, and that the virus can be contracted from packages and letter envelopes.  While the Mexican beverage company  have expressed their trust in their customers not to fail them in what appears to be a mere coincidence in nomenclature, one can only imagine how much havoc can be caused by spreading myths.

So here is the truth. The 2019-nCoV has no cure yet, antibiotics are merely to treat bacterial infections which could co-exist with any viral infection, pets have not been proven to infect humans with the new coronavirus strain even though animals have their specific strains of coronavirus, and your old grandparents did not suddenly develop a penchant for getting infected by the new virus. The virus is not also contracted by receiving letters and packages. All we need to do is to ensure the highest standard of hand and respiratory hygiene while hoping for a breakthrough in the attempts at finding a cure. The times are critical for everyone, especially in China but spreading myths will do no good at the moment.

About the author

Nelson Udeme-Abasi is a final year medical student of the University of Uyo Nigeria with over 3 years of experience in volunteering, advocacy and student leadership. He is currently the national chair of InciSioN Nigeria, the national working group of the International Students Surgical Network-InciSioN in Nigeria. He holds a certificate of competence in basic trauma life support from the Nigerian Red Cross Society and is a 2-time winner of the Nto Annang Foundation scholarship for outstanding academic achievements and community service. He is passionate about global health from a surgical perspective and hopes to specialise in Pediatric Surgery.


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  1. John Keynes says:

    Yes, the experts have said to wear a mask when going out to crowded places, but some people just don’t take it seriously. I’ve bought some ordinary disposable masks from for my families, and if someone is looking for them, this manufacture may still have some stocks.

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