From 'Bat Soup' to Drinking Bleach, Debunking Coronavirus Myths
It has been nearly a month since Wuhan and other cities in China were declared under lockdown in a radical attempt to stop the spreading of the newly discovered coronavirus, yet infection rates continue to rise.
Nearly 1,500 people have died and there have been nearly 50,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide since the disease was discovered in December 2019, according to the World Health Organization. While 99% of known cases appear to be confined to China, there are 15 confirmed cases in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control.
But as the disease continues to spread, so do myths about its origins, ways in which to treat it and the ways it can spread.
1. The disease originated from “bat soup”
Initial reports linked the coronavirus outbreak to a wet market in Wuhan, and when photos and videos of “bat soup” began circulating, the internet was quick to jump to conclusions. Many online sleuths speculated the two were related and rushed to blame the Chinese and their eating habits for the fast-spreading disease.
However, the viral video wasn’t taken in Wuhan or any other area in China, nor was it recent. In fact, the video was filmed in 2016, during a travel influencer’s visit to Palau, an archipelago in the western pacific that is known for the delicacy. Chinese vlogger Wang Mengyun filmed the segment for her Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, and has since apologized for the confusion.
The actual origin of coronavirus is still under investigation.
2. Spraying or consuming bleach or alcohol will prevent or cure the virus
Online conspiracy theorists have suggested that drinking “Miracle Mineral Solution,” a bleaching agent, can cure the virus. Bleach is not safe to consume whether you have a virus or not and can lead to poisoning.
The World Health Organization also warned against spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body as it won’t kill a virus that has already been contracted and can be harmful to your skin and mucous membranes.
According to Business Insider, sanitation workers in parts of China have been spraying the street with a mix of low-concentration bleach and water to help quell its spreading, but doctors say disinfectants are best used in places like hospitals or emergency rooms.
"Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations," WHO said.
3. Animals can spread coronavirus
Although a lot of factors concerning coronavirus remain unknown, the likelihood that a human would contract the virus from an animal is very rare, according to the CDC. The disease is most often spread from person-to-person and requires close contact. Scientists believe it’s predominantly spread through respiratory droplets, which are released when a person with the virus coughs or sneezes.
"These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs," the CDC said. Doctors remain unsure whether the virus can be contracted if a person touches surfaces that have the virus on it and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
4. Coronavirus was released into the public
Considering how fast it spread, some were quick to wonder whether coronavirus was a biological weapon released into the public.
One conspiracy theorist said the outbreak was related to an alleged incident last summer in which researcher Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, her husband Keding Cheng and some of Qiu’s students were escorted out of the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg, Canada. The facility, which is the country’s only Level 4 lab, handles some of the deadliest human and animal diseases, including Ebola.
Staff at the lab were told the researchers’ security access was revoked, that they were on leave, and that no one was to have communication with them, CBC reported at the time. Police were involved in the investigation, but stressed there was no danger to the public.
However, conspiracy theorists were quick to run with the information, alleging the scientists were spies intent on bringing the coronavirus to another Level 4 lab in Wuhan to develop it into a bioweapon.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has since denied any connection between the incident at the Winnipeg lab and the coronavirus outbreak.
"This is misinformation and there is no factual basis for claims being made on social media," the organization’s spokesperson Eric Morrissette told the CBC.
5. Wearing a regular face mask will prevent the disease from spreading
Medical professionals have said that a regular face mask will not protect people from contracting the virus. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told Live Science that a specialized and much thicker mask called an N95 respirator would be more helpful for protections, but doctors and CDC alike say that the general public doesn’t need to wear masks.
You only need to wear a mask if you are a healthcare professional who is taking care of someone with the virus, and if you have the virus or have been exposed to it.
"CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory viruses, including 2019-nCoV. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it," they said.
While there is no vaccine to cure or prevent the coronavirus, there are some actions people can take to avoid contracting it, just as with any other virus, including: washing your hands before touching your face, avoiding contact with people who have the virus, cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces.
The CDC also emphasizes that if you are sick, you should stay home.
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