Truths and Myths About the Coronavirus
By now, everyone knows about the coronavirus. We know how bad it is in China. And how it’s spreading from one country to another.
What we don’t know yet – and what we desperately want to know – is whether it will turn into a pandemic. We want to know how severe it will get here in America.
My purpose is not to scare anyone. I don’t know any more than you do regarding how big a problem the coronavirus will become in the U.S.
Today I just want to share some truths and myths about the coronavirus. I’d like you to stay aware of it and educated about it. In case it spreads widely in America. And I want to encourage you to prepare for the worst case scenario.
Heading toward a pandemic?
Just so we’re on the same page here, “epidemic” means a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time. An epidemic is serious, but can usually be controlled and defeated by quarantines and modern medicine.
A “pandemic,” on the other hand, is the occurrence of an infectious disease over a wide geographic area. And affecting a high percentage of the population. Modern medicine is often unable to contain its spread.
Of course, if you get sick with something like the coronavirus, it doesn’t matter what they call it. You’re going to be miserable.
But knowing what’s true and what’s not about the coronavirus can help you better prepare for it. Just in case it does become a pandemic.
Truth No. 1 – Coronavirus is in the U.S.
Coronavirus is here, that’s for sure. As of this writing, there have been 15 confirmed cases in the U.S. By the time you read this, there will probably be more.
Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch told The Wall Street Journal that “it’s likely we’ll see a global pandemic” of coronavirus. With 40 to 70 percent of the world’s population likely to be infected this year.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier is director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
She says the CDC is taking steps to prepare for the coronavirus to “take a foothold in the U.S.”
Truth No. 2 – Men may be more susceptible to the coronavirus than women.
The majority of cases so far appear to be older men (55 on average) with pre-existing illnesses. Such as heart disease and diabetes.
One study revealed that nearly two-thirds of the confirmed cases are men. Other studies show between 54 and 58 percent being men.
Anjana Ahuja is a science writer for the Financial Times. He calls this an “eye-catching discrepancy.”
He says a reason for this could be smoking habits. Or hormonal differences that could affect men’s immune system responses to the disease.
Truth No. 3 – Coronavirus may travel through pipes.
In Hong Kong, a 75-year-old man and a 62-year-old woman living 10 floors apart in an apartment building became infected with the coronavirus.
After an unsealed pipe was found in the woman’s apartment, health authorities evacuated other residents from the building.
If the virus can be spread through fecal matter, it could move through pipes connected to the sewage system.
Back in 2003, hundreds of people in Hong Kong died during the SARS outbreak. Pipes were found to be a source of transmission.
Truth No. 4 – 14-day quarantines may not be enough.
The National Health Commission in China has released a study suggesting that the incubation period for the coronavirus could be up to 24 days.
As a reminder, an incubation period is the time between exposure to an infectious disease and the appearance of the first symptoms.
The average incubation period for the coronavirus is three days. But if it turns out it can be more than 21 days, some people released from quarantine after two weeks could be infected. And spread the disease.
So far, U.S. officials are quarantining evacuees from Wuhan, China for 14 days. They say they are comfortable with that time period.
Myth No. 1 – Pets can catch and spread the coronavirus.
Have you seen images of dogs and cats wearing surgical masks? Especially in areas where the coronavirus has been confirmed? They might be cute, but animals don’t need respirator masks.
Cats and dogs, as well as other pets, can catch their own kinds of coronaviruses. But not from humans. Nor can they transmit a coronavirus to a human.
“Those are not human pathogens,” says Dr. Gregory Poland. He’s a virus expert and head of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic.
The World Health Organization reports there is no evidence the coronavirus can infect companion animals such as dogs and cats.
Myth No. 2 – Mail and packages can transmit the coronavirus.
If you’ve received anything in the mail from China recently – or expect to in the near future – you might be wondering about this one.
U.S. officials say there is no evidence to support the transmission of the new coronavirus through imported goods.
Messonnier said, “Because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”
Studies show that similar viruses such as SARS and MERS can only live for a few hours on the surface of an object.
Myth No. 3 – Facemasks will protect you from the coronavirus.
Basic surgical facemasks appear to have little if any ability to protect you from the coronavirus. That’s according to Dr. William Schaffner. He’s an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.
He acknowledges that a more specialized mask such as the N95 respirator can do the job. Mainly because it’s thicker than a surgical mask.
But he also said they are more challenging to put on. And difficult to wear for an extended period of time. Respirators can make it harder to breathe normally.
“I know that I can wear them when I need to for about a half-hour,” he said. “But then I have to go out of the isolation room, take it off and take some deep breaths.”
Know and prepare
I hope you’ve benefited from this look at coronavirus truths and myths. Because knowledge is power.
Being prepared – with knowledge and supplies – is the key to surviving the coronavirus or any future pandemic.