COVID-19 Q&A: Part 1

Coronavirus: Facts VS. Fiction | Dr. Ali Ghahary

One of the biggest problems when it comes to outbreaks of certain illnesses and diseases is social media. While it can certainly be a good tool to get information from, it can also often run rampant with misinformation and conspiracy theories – and the coronavirus has not been immune to this, which is why it’s important to separate fact from fiction so that you can have the best information and know what you should or should not be doing in order to keep yourself, your family, and your community as protected as possible.

Below are some of the most frequently asked questions (and answers) surrounding Coronavirus.

“Is Coronavirus a new type of virus?”
The answer to this is, emphatically, no. Coronaviruses have been around for thousands of years. In fact, you’re more likely to develop coronavirus than not. For example, a common cold is one strain of coronavirus that affects us all from time to time; while they can also include more serious respiratory illnesses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (also known as MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (commonly known as SARS.) However, this particular strain of Coronavirus that has been making headlines, nCoV, is a strain that had not been identified in humans previously, which is why it is so alarming.

“How did the latest Coronavirus outbreak start?”
While the exact host-animal of the latest Coronavirus outbreak affecting humans has yet to be identified, the originating source is believed to have been a market located in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China which was selling both dead and live animals.

“I recently travelled to an area known to have Coronavirus outbreak but don’t have any symptoms. Is there anything I should do? What happens if I start to exhibit symptoms?”
If you have travelled outside of Canada, then you must limit your contact with others by self-isolating yourself at home for at least 14 days out of an abundance of caution. If you start to develop any symptoms of COVID-19, such as a fever, cough or trouble breathing, then you should seek medical advice. However, it’s important to note that you should call your physician’s office ahead of time and advise them of your recent travel and the symptoms you’re experiencing. They will be able to point you in the right direction in terms of next steps you need to take.

“I have travel plans in the near future. Should I cancel them?”
Because Coronavirus is spreading all across the world, all non-essential travel is now banned in many parts of the world, including Canada. If you are unsure as to whether or not your travel plans are going to be affected by the Coronavirus outbreak, you should check with your travel agent or airline ahead of time, as things are changing rapidly.

“I heard through social media about a simple cure for Coronavirus. this true?”
Currently, there is no known cure for this strain of Coronavirus, and anyone suggesting otherwise is providing you with misleading and inaccurate information. In many cases, users who pass along false information are either looking to increase their follower count or believe in conspiracies that simply do not exist. Therefore, it is always important to remember to get your information through a trusted source, such as a licensed healthcare professional (i.e. a doctor) or website like the CDC, or from your local Government, as opposed to random users on a social media platform.

“People are mass-buying things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Should I follow suit?”
With many parts of the world going into lockdown as a result of COVID-19, individuals have been seen stockpiling certain household items and toiletries, such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper. In fact, in recent days there has even been a shortage on the aforementioned items. As a result, some stores are even having to impose strict limits on these items. While it’s never a bad idea to have some extra necessities on hand in the event of an emergency, this is mostly something that was initially fuelled by social media, resulting in fear and panic. Another explanation for this panic-buying phenomenon is something known as the fear of missing out – otherwise known as FOMO – in which you think if everyone else is buying X amount of certain items, then there must be a valid reason and it’s therefore something you need to get in on too. However, the best thing to do in situations like these is to not panic, as this will only lead to an increase in stress and anxiety. Health officials have also reassured us that there is no shortage in supply, therefore hoarding these items is not necessary.

“I’m young and in excellent health, therefore I don’t have to worry about Coronavirus and don’t need to take any precautionary measures.”
While Coronavirus tends to be more prevalent in those over the age of 60 or individuals diagnosed with pre-existing conditions and/or those with compromised immune systems, that doesn’t mean that other age groups aren’t at risk, as there have been small clusters where younger age groups have been affected by this virus. Regardless of your age or how healthy you are, it’s always important to take precautionary measures and follow the advice of local health officials.

If there are any further questions you have that need answering surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, the Public Health Agency of Canada has set up the following toll-free information line which you can call at 1-833-784-4397. You can also find much more information via the BC Centre for Disease Control website at http://covid-19.bccdc.ca.