13 Queries and myths about the coronavirus
Q 1: Getting the coronavirus is a death sentence.
Well, there's a lot we still don't know about the coronavirus disease, but based on the data that is coming out, it seems to be a mild type of viral infection. There's a 2% fatality rate and about 18% to 20% that may be in, kind of in the critical condition range.
Answer: And those 2% who die are the sickest. They're in the hospital already. So even those in the hospital have probably a 98% chance of surviving. So it's not a death sentence. I agree.
Q 2: Only Chinese people have the coronavirus.
Answer: Well, it started in China, but the reality is that it's everyone's virus. And if it gets far enough, just like the flu, it could be anywhere.
Q 3: The coronavirus is the most dangerous virus.
That is not true. There are a number of different viruses out there in the world. So, let's just compare it to another type of virus. So, you have the Ebola virus disease, which has a much higher fatality rate associated with it.
Answer: I think the official count is now 6,000 recoveries. But, you know, one of the funny things is that we don't usually report recoveries when someone is discharged from the hospital. So all those recoveries, probably there are many more on the way as well.
Q 4: Wearing a mask will protect me from the virus.
A lot of people like to think so. And, of course, a mask gives you a sense of security. But the problem is that people who wear these masks usually don't wear them properly. They've never really been trained. They may not know what kind of mask to wear.
Answer: So, there's two types of masks: One, the simple or surgical mask that you see the general population wearing. And then there's another type of mask that healthcare workers wear. It's called the N95 mask, and it's a respirator, and it is able to filter particles that are airborne with 95% efficacy. And the one that healthcare workers wear, they have to go through what we call fit testing. And so to make sure they have a perfect seal.
People who may think they wanna wear an N95 find it very uncomfortable after a while. So even if it's well fit, it's then especially hard to breathe through.
And the mask is really for those that are infected with the actual coronavirus disease, not so much for a healthy individual. So things that actually proven to be effective is washing your hands often, you know, 20 seconds, as well as obviously, if you're sick, staying home. So, a number of other public health measures that actually are proven to be extremely effective.
Q 5: The coronavirus came from bat soup.
Answer: That is absolutely not correct. So, what we know about the current coronavirus disease is that it started in Wuhan in China in a wet market where there's a number of different animals there. So there's a couple of different speculations out there, but not from somebody obviously consuming bat soup.
But what we do know, obviously, is that once you actually get the coronavirus disease, the form of transmission is obviously through droplet spread. So coming in contact with somebody that is sick with the coronavirus disease, close contact with them, or, you know, contact with their droplets right shortly after.
Q 6: You can get sick from a package sent from China.
Answer: I think it's really highly unlikely, when you consider the time it takes for a package to get from China.
And right now what we do know is that obviously these droplets that can contain the virion, or the virus itself, it may not be able to survive outside the human body for very long. So even if it may, for example, come on a package or a box, depending on how long it's been there, it may not actually be able to survive outside. But we still don't know.
Q 7: Closing borders will stop the spread of the virus.
Answer: These types of respiratory viruses, they don't respect borders as we know. And it's not the fault of a government that this type of outbreak is starting or spreading. It's just the nature of the virus itself.
Travel bans historically have proven not to be very effective. In fact, you know, it seems that it was the opposite. They caused more fear, make more chaos. People were reluctant to actually come forward with actually reporting that they had the illness.
A lot of it is perception, and with travel bans, a lot of it, politicians particularly I hate to say, like to do that because it gives the appearance of doing something, but it is often counterproductive.
The federal government does state nonessential travel should be restricted, obviously, to mainland China. That's the epicenter, and that's where there's a lot of community transmission. But outside of China, where you may see there's over two dozen countries that actually are reporting to have coronavirus disease, if there is no community transmission, there is, obviously, no risk to the general public.
But continue to look at Centers for Disease Control's website. They have a travel health advisory section, and that you can actually go to and put the name of the country, and it'll tell you the precautions. And as well as go to your healthcare provider, they can provide some travel guidance to you if you need to travel to various areas that may be reporting outbreaks of coronavirus disease.
Q 8: The virus only affects older people.
Answer: Well, that's kind of half true. It affects everybody, even children. The older people, however, are the ones who are more likely to have severe disease or more serious disease. So all of us older people have to be careful, but it affects everybody. And even the older people, most of us will probably not even be that sick.
Q 9: The coronavirus is the same as SARS.
Answer: So, the coronavirus is in the same family as SARS. It's a coronavirus disease. There are two various, and now three coronaviruses, known to cause more severe infections in humans. SARS is one of them. MERS, which is Middle East respiratory syndrome, is another one. And now coronavirus disease that just started obviously.
SARS was more severe in terms of the fatality rate that was reported. So it's about 10% versus, with the coronavirus, what we're seeing right now is about a 2%, but still it's way too early to tell.
This one is different. This spreads a lot more like the flu, but there are so many more cases simply because it's spread so well so many more people can easily get infected. Large numbers of deaths doesn't necessarily mean that it's a very lethal virus. It just means that a lot of people have been getting it, and some of them unfortunately die.
And let's just take seasonal flu, for example. Seasonal flu this year started in October, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are already reporting over 10,000 deaths, you know, related to seasonal flu. And over again, you know, 20 million Americans being infected. So let's just put things into context.
Q 10: The coronavirus has something to do with Corona beer.
Answer: No, and beer won't prevent it, either. So, "corona" is simply Latin for "crown," and they have a crown-like appearance, with those spikes sticking up. But the beer is all on its own. It won't prevent coronaviruses, won't give it to you. It's just a coincidence.
Q 11: My pet could give me the virus.
Answer: So, with the coronavirus, you know, there's still a lot we don't know. Right now, we haven't seen any cases where pets are transmitting the virus to their owners.
You're more likely to give it to your pet than the other way around.
Yeah. Morse: Take good care of your pets.
Q 12: The coronavirus was deliberately created or released.
Answer: Giving humans a little bit too much credit here.
So, we basically had three coronaviruses in three decades. But we know that there are a lot of them in nature that look exactly like SARS, and this one doesn't look special. So this is just another one to add to the collection.
Infectious diseases can be caused by a number of different things. Obviously, they're natural in the environment. It could be due to, obviously, climate change, ecological factors, agricultural factors, human behavior. And these are constantly happening around us. So outbreaks are inevitable.
It could be very surprising that anyone would have figured out a way to create it. We still are way behind nature in being able to do that.
Q 13: Antibiotics prevent and treat the virus.
Viruses and bacteria are two different microbes. So we would use antibiotics for bacteria. For viruses, we use antiviral medications. And so, for example, with seasonal flu, that's a virus, and so one of the ways that we can treat or alleviate some of the symptoms is by giving Tamiflu. That's an antiviral medication. So antibiotics in this context for this virus do not work unless you have secondary infections that are bacterial in nature.
Answer: And this is a very common misconception. There are a couple of drugs now that are experimental, but they're in the development stage, that are showing promise against this particular virus.
We're still in the early stages of the coronavirus disease. There is a lot of rumors, things that are not factual, so really go to credible sources. Go to public health websites that are credible. Go to the World Health Organization's website. Go to your local health department's website, or even go to your healthcare provider to get more information if you're curious.
And if you want to read about all the emerging diseases everywhere in the world, you can get on the ProMED website or even get email. And I think there has been a lot of fear around this, partly because we've heard of these other coronaviruses like SARS. But I think panic or fear is not really what we need.
These outbreaks are inevitable, and we need to continue to prepare for these types of outbreaks. We need to invest in global health security.
A best-case scenario, obviously, is that it all gets under control, and hopefully we'll have vaccines and other things and have learned something from the experience.
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