The WhatsApp inbox of almost every Pakistani user has been flooding with myths regarding the new coronavirus — COVID-19 — since first two cases of the disease in the country were confirmed by the government last night.
While the World Health Organization (WHO) has already declared an emergency following the global outbreak of the novel virus that has so far claimed over 2,700 lives and left around 81,000 others infected, here are some myth busters you need to know while maybe ignoring all those forwarded messages on WhatsApp.
Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also at risk?
According to the WHO, people of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?
No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.
The new coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. However, if you are hospitalised for the COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Can eating garlic or putting on sesame oil help prevent coronavirus?
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.
As for sesame oil, it does not kill the new coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCoV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform.
However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.
Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?
To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus, however, chloroquine phosphate — used for the treatment of malaria — has so far proven to be the most effective drug against the virus.
Those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimised supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.
Can pets at home spread the coronavirus?
At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.