As coronavirus spreads, so do all kinds of myths and rumours about it. Also known as COVID-19, let’s take a look at some of the misinformation and misconceptions to make sure you’re getting the right information about the virus.
More than 95,000 people are known to be infected, more than 3,200 deaths have been recorded, according to AFP.
The bulk of cases and fatalities have been confined to China, but the virus is spreading internationally.
Tanzania, which was put in the list of countries importing the virus, hasn’t registered any cases, confirmed by the government, recently.
There are different types of coronaviruses - it is a family of viruses that cause disease in animals. Seven, including the new virus, have made the jump to humans, but most just cause cold-like symptoms.
Telegraph UK reports that the source of the coronavirus is believed to be a “wet market” in Wuhan which sold both dead and live animals including fish and birds.
It further asserts that such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on site.
I also want you to understand that it is important to stay alert but not get anxious. We need to keep calm and follow the advice of our public health authorities and medical experts. We need to also stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, and the right source is usually available on the World Health Organisation (WHO) or Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
I strongly urge our citizens to stay away from forwarded WhatsApp messages and tweets on coronavirus that has no genuine source.
According to WHO, the most common symptoms are fever, cough and in some cases shortness of breath. It spreads in the same way that is through air, surface or even through close contact with another human who is infected.
Basic protective measures you can take
According to WHO and CDC, these are the following preventive measures:
1. Stay alert but not anxious: I said it before and I want to reiterate because I do not want you to panic. With tonnes of misinformation from multiple unreliable sources, you can at times be overwhelmed by anxiety and unnecessary fear. Only take information that will keep you updated and not make you anxious.
2. Don’t travel if it’s not important: Avoid travelling, especially to China at the moment unless it’s absolutely mandatory.
3. Wash your hands: Make sure you and your family stay clean and most importantly wash your hands throughout the day with soap and water. Alternatively, use alcohol-based hand sanitiser which is commonly available in any nearby pharmacy.
4. Don’t touch your face: Yes don’t! do your best in avoiding touching your mucus membranes that include your eyes, nose and your mouth.
5. Practise basic etiquette: If you cough or sneeze, please cover yourself with something like tissue or handkerchief and throw it away immediately after use.
6. Clean high traffic areas: If you are using a public work-space, wipe it first. It’s a simple rule that I would like to recommend to everyone.
7. Do your best to avoid physical contact: If you see someone coughing or sneezing, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between you and the person. That’s generally a thumb rule in avoiding flu virus from another person.
The author is medical doctor based in Dar es salaam.