Myths About The Novel Coronavirus (No, Eating Garlic Won't Protect You)
STORY: Janelle Yong
10 February 2020
With Singapore now in DORSCON Orange, it's tempting to start panic-buying and trying out the latest miracle remedies being circulated on Facebook and Whatsapp. Before you start ordering crates of garlic, here are some myths about the novel coronavirus that have been debunked by the World Health Organization.
Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?
Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.
Can pets at home spread the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the novel coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.
Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the novel coronavirus?
No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the novel coronavirus.
The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts.
Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.
Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the novel coronavirus?
No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the novel coronavirus.
There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.
Can gargling mouthwash protect you from infection with the novel coronavirus?
No. There is no evidence that using mouthwash will protect you from infection with the novel coronavirus.
Some brands of mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth. However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection.
Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the novel coronavirus?
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the novel coronavirus.
Does putting on sesame oil block the novel coronavirus from entering the body?
No. Sesame oil does not kill the novel coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCoV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, ether solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform.
However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.
Does the novel coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?
People of all ages can be infected by the novel coronavirus. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.
Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the novel coronavirus?
No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.
The novel coronavirus is a virus, so antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
However, if you are hospitalised for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus?
To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the novel coronavirus.
However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimised supportive care.
Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range of partners.
Travellers and members of the public should adopt the following precautions at all times:
- Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds, and consumption of raw and undercooked meats;
- Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness;
- Observe good personal hygiene;
- Practise frequent hand washing with soap (e.g. before handling food or eating, after going to toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing);
- Wear a mask if you have respiratory symptoms such as a cough or runny nose;
- Cover your mouth with a tissue paper when coughing or sneezing, and dispose the soiled tissue paper in the rubbish bin immediately; and
- Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.