By Dr. Swadeep Srivastava
The novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, started from Wuhan, China, and has been spreading fast, reaching every continent on Earth except Antarctica. It seems to have taken a pandemic proportion, hitting the news headlines, but it still has a host of untruths surrounding it. The relentless flood of information can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction - and during a viral outbreak, rumours and misconception can be dangerous. Let's try to lay bare the facts and the misconception around this.
What is Coronavirus?
Primarily, we need to understand what exactly coronavirus is. As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). This coronavirus is the third of the series. The two earlier coronaviruses SARS and MERS had similar symptoms.
Interestingly, all the three viruses are of Zoonotic nature, meaning these viruses are transmitted from animals to humans. And the affected human becomes the source to transfer and it starts transferring from humans to humans, which is relatively faster. And if you see the death statistics, elderly people are more prone to dying, as their immune system is weak and they are vulnerable to getting affected compared to the younger population.
Facts and Misconceptions behind Coronavirus
Broadly, there are three facts and misconceptions behind the outbreak of this virus.
- Exaggeration behind the causes: There is almost exaggeration behind the catapult of the spread of this virus as the videos which are going viral claiming to describe its causes show soups of bats and snakes. Since the videos claim to depict the reasons of coronavirus' spread, it drives the masses to watch it out, thereby creating an impression of panic over the subconscious mind and creating a misconception. Meanwhile, the fact is that it originated from the Wuhan seafood market where neither bats nor snakes are sold. Thence, the oft-discussed bats and snakes being the reasons for the outbreak of this virus, is an absolute misconception. There is no proven indicator justifying the involvement of bats and snakes behind its occurrence.
- Hyped Speculated Statistics: In retrospect, see how the fact and the speculated statistics played out in 2005 when Bird Flu occurred? The WHO predicted that 150 million people will be affected somehow by its pang, however surprisingly, the actual deaths in 2006 were 115 followed by 86 in 2007. As opposed to 150 million predicted deaths, only 201 deaths occurred in two years. Likewise, Swine Flu in 2009, Ebola in 2014, ZIKA in 2016 and Influenza in 2017 and 2018 turned out to be epidemic but at all events, the difference between the speculated and the actual figure of deaths were poles apart. Although this epidemic can engulf any of us and so precaution must be taken to prevent it beforehand, there is no need to panic and harbour misconception around it as it has been spreading fast.
- Natural Reasons: If you see, these sort of viruses always occurs in the month of January - extreme cold. There might be natural conditions as the sunlight is not so intense which affects the natural methods of sterilisation of water in tanks, rivers and lakes. Sunlight's active germicidal effect due to its content of ultraviolet rays. The low intensity of sunlight lowers Vitamin D level that enables the viruses to multiply.
Bottom-line to deal with this coronavirus
We need to take the precautionary measures to be safe as suggested by the health experts. Broadly, the virus is thought to spread mainly due to the following reasons, which must be taken care of:
- From person-to-person
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet)
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs
This is the most prevalent maxim, 'Prevention is better than cure'. Thus, prevent it by keeping your hands clean by washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Bust the misconception; Stay healthy and spread health.
(The author is Managing Partner in India Virtual Hospital. Views expressed in the article are personal.)