Separating the facts from the fiction
The coronavirus and the infection it causes, COVID-19, has rapidly spread to countries and territories all over the world. This family of viruses is not new. Other types, or strains, of coronavirus are common in animals and have been known to cause common cold-like symptoms in people. However, this particular strain of coronavirus, is new.
When the first cases were reported in 2019 in Wuhan, China, it had not been seen previously, making it a novel virus. So far, the coronavirus has infected approximately 110,000 people, killing more than 3,800, according to Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering map.
These numbers are likely to rise, according to Dr Alexea Gaffney-Adams, a specialist in infectious diseases. “There is no population immunity, which means everyone is susceptible,” she says. “Also, little is known about how long patients without symptoms are contagious, which makes the infection difficult to contain.” As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.
But how worried should you actually be—and what are your chances of getting the coronavirus? There’s a lot of mixed messages and plenty of fallacies surrounding the hows, whys, and whats of the coronavirus. We asked medical experts to set the record straight by helping debunk these popular coronavirus myths.
Myth: Coronavirus is the most dangerous and deadly virus
Many other viruses have a higher mortality rate than the coronavirus, according to Dr Ashish Sharma, a hospital medicine specialist at Yuma Regional Medical Center in Arizona. Even the flu is thought to be more dangerous because so many more people get it each year. “According to the CDC, this flu season from October 2019 to February 2020 alone has seen 26 to 36 million people affected, with a quarter to half a million people getting hospitalised and fourteen thousand to thirty-six thousand deaths from influenza infection,” says Dr Sharma. “Similarly, the Ebola virus has a much higher fatality rate compared to coronavirus, which so far seems to have a 1-2 per cent fatality rate with severe infection.”
The flu mortality rate is thought to be lower than coronavirus, at about 0.1%, While the mortality rate for coronavirus is not yet clear (estimates range from 0.7 to 4% with about 2.3% the most frequently cited), the WHO and other health organisations says it’s still worth trying to contain the virus so that fewer people get it. That said, the majority of people—80%, according to CDC—who get it are thought to have mild symptoms, although it’s dangerous for some.
Myth: Coronavirus originated from ‘bat soup’ consumption
There is no evidence to support this rumour, according to experts. It’s true that coronavirus can be found in bats. However, Dr Sharma explains, this came from animal-to-person spread in the wet market (seafood- and meat-selling market) in Wuhan with other animal species. “There are different speculations, but the virus spreading from bat soup person has not been confirmed.” The rumour got its start from a 2016 video of a vlogger eating “bat soup,” which was recirculated after the coronavirus outbreak, prompting outrage. The video was not filmed in Wuhan, as some people reported erroneously, but actually the South Pacific island, Palau, she told News Corp Australia.