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Covid-19: Myths exposed and questions answered

Here is some useful information and answers to frequently asked questions about coronavirus and the Covid-19 outbreak. Info is from the World Health Organisation, unless otherwise stated.

Q: Are there any medicines or therapies that can prevent or cure Covid-19?
A: “While some western, traditional or home remedies may provide comfort and alleviate symptoms of Covid-19, there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease. The WHO does not recommend self-medication with any medicines, including antibiotics, as a prevention or cure for Covid-19. However, there are several ongoing clinical trials that include both western and traditional medicines. WHO will continue to provide updated information as soon as clinical findings are available.”

MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels, according to the WHO.

Q: Can humans become infected with Covid-19 from an animal source?
A: “Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in animals. Occasionally, people get infected with these viruses which may then spread to other people. For example, SARS-CoV was associated with civet cats and MERS-CoV is transmitted by dromedary camels. Possible animal sources of Covid-19 have not yet been confirmed.

“To protect yourself, such as when visiting live animal markets, avoid direct contact with animals and surfaces in contact with animals. Ensure good food safety practices at all times. Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care to avoid contamination of uncooked foods and avoid consuming raw or undercooked animal products.”

Q: How long is the incubation period for Covid-19?
A: “The ‘incubation period’ means the time between catching the virus and beginning to have symptoms of the disease. Most estimates of the incubation period for Covid-19 range from 1-14 days, most commonly around five days. These estimates will be updated as more data become available.”

Q: How long does the virus survive on surfaces?
A: “It is not certain how long the virus that causes Covid-19 survives on surfaces, but it seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses (including preliminary information on the Covid-19 virus) may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions (eg type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

“If you think a surface may be infected, clean it with simple disinfectant to kill the virus and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.”

**The latest stats on the pandemic, at the time of writing this article, were 335,000 infections worldwide and more than 14,650 deaths. The WHO figures on this are available by clicking here

Ramaphosa lauded for response to Covid-19 crisis

The BBC has produced an informative video on “more covid-19 myths to ignore“; these concern some of the “viral claims” that are going around about the virus. The claims include the significance of “holding your breath” as a means of testing whether you have the virus; a warning about certain home-made hand sanitiser recipes; the belief that vodka will “sanitise your hands”; and that the virus can survive on surfaces “for up to a month”, among others. Watch the video to learn more.

The WHO has its own section of info on myths around the disease, under “Mythbusters”:

South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has loads of useful information, media reports, the latest statistics on infections in SA, a Covid-19 “Toolkit”, videos, guidlines for childcare facilities and schools, and much more

“Scientists and experts should be allowed to speak freely and openly to the media and the general public on the Covid-19 pandemic, and not be gagged. The best way for disinformation to spread is to leave a void for pseudo-experts and disinformation peddlers to fill,” writes Schalk Mouton on The Daily Maverick. – Mouton, says the Maverick, is a science communications professional at Wits University. He is a former journalist and news editor and now works in the Wits communications team.

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