Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
There is a lot of misinformation floating around the internet and the news media about the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, especially about how to prevent it. The biggest myth is a mask. Regular surgical masks are useless. Unless it’s a mask known as an N-95 mask, don’t bother.
There are a lot of draw backs to the N-95 mask. The biggest is that it won’t protect you unless you wear it correctly. You should be instructed by a medical professional on how to get a proper fit. Men must be clean shaven to get a proper seal. The mask is a one time use and has a time limit for wearing it. They are also hard to breath through, so if you have a respiratory problem, Asthma, COPD, a cold or the flu, it can be difficult and may exacerbate the illness. They are also hot and uncomfortable. Did I mention the N-95 mask is expensive?
Again, the mask can protect you from getting the virus but it has to be fitted properly so the you are breathing through the filter material of the mask. Nor has it been shown to be effective protection to the general public, even during air travel.
MYTH: A vaccine to cure COVID-19 is available.
FACT: There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus right now. Scientists have already begun working on one, but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in human beings will take many months.
MYTH: You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by swallowing or gargling with bleach, taking acetic acid or steroids, or using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other substances.
FACT: None of these recommendations protect you from getting COVID-19, and some of these practices may be dangerous.
MYTH: The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.
FACT: Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.
MYTH: People are dying from COVID-19 in many countries.
FACT: As of Feb. 28, 2020, 2,791 people in China have died from COVID-19, as well as 80 people in other countries. Medical authorities will confirm any fatalities in other areas.
MYTH: Ordering or buying products shipped from China will make a person sick.
FACT: Researchers are studying the new coronavirus to learn more about how it infects people. As of this writing, scientists note that most viruses like this one do not stay alive for very long on surfaces, so it is not likely you would get COVID-19 from a package that was in transit for days or weeks. The illness is most likely transmitted by droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough, but more information is emerging daily.
So what should you do? This is what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends:
- Voluntary Home Isolation: Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus.
- Respiratory Etiquette: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can.
- Hand Hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.
- Environmental Health Action: Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects
Last night, Donald McNeil, science and health reporter for the New York Times, spopke with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow about early assessments of the rate of transmission and rate of lethality of the new coronavirus. He also spoke about the staffing and equipment that may be necessary to handle an outbreak of coronavirus in the United States and where the U.S. is facing challenges in meeting those needs.