Some Truths About#SARSCoV2 / #COVID19 / #coronavirus
By Dr. Rodney E. Rohde, PhD, MS, SM(ASCP)CM SVCM, MBCM, FACSc Texas State Honorary Professor of International Studies, Associate Director for Translational Health Research Initiative. Associate Dean for Research, CHP & Chair & Professor, Clinical Laboratory Science.
As we continue to watch in real time the coronavirus outbreak, there is another virus spreading perhaps at an even faster and more dangerous pace – the virus of misinformation. The sensational nature of an infectious disease outbreak combined with the ease of spreading information leads to rumors and misinformation, and this has certainly been true with the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARSCoV2).
Misinformation on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and others range from conspiracy theories about the intentional release of the virus to supposed cures (vaccines) for the infection. I, along with other experts, am not proclaiming that this event is not to be followed closely with global cooperation and preparation. Indeed, novel outbreaks from any microbe should always be of public health concern. However, misinformation and outright false proclamations can lead to dangerous outcomes with respect to how the public responds to such an event. In the following article, I will attempt to dispel some of the common myths surrounding this new virus and the ongoing outbreak.
1. Is there a cure or vaccine for this new coronavirus? Facebook had one false post shared more than 500 times claiming that a vaccine exists for the new form coronavirus, which is false. Currently, there are no vaccines for any of the seven types of coronavirus that humans are susceptible to according to PolitiFact, quoting Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. However, there are ongoing efforts to create a vaccine as well as antiviral medications.
2. Is it safe to receive a letter, goods or a package from China? Yes, it is safe. According to most research, including statements from the WHO and CDC, this virus may remain viable for up to nine hours or longer on inanimate objects. Remember, all viruses require a host to survive and multiply.
With that in mind, at the moment, most scientists and experts studying this new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) believe it’s too early to know how “seasonality” or weather conditions will affect the virus. We do know that influenza is a seasonal virus that is more prominent in the winter (cooler and lower humidity) than summer (hotter and higher humidity). Generally, research shows that viruses (made of up of lipids and proteins) will not be transmitted as far in the warmer, higher humid months because respiratory droplets will become much heavier as they are expelled from the body by collecting with moisture via the high relative humidity. Thus, they fall to the ground quicker. In the lower humidity of winter, these same respiratory droplets may travel further, so more easily transmitted person to person. Further, since viruses are mostly fat (lipid) and protein, high heat and humidity help to denature them quickly. Finally, some believe that being outdoors in the direct path of UV rays in sunlight kill viruses (and other microbes) more quickly.
In my professional opinion, I believe the current outbreak with this virus will continue in the warmer months with some slowing. I base this on the simple fact that it is a new virus that is encountering a naïve human immune population. In other words, there is relatively little herd immunity, so the virus has fewer immune hurdles to overcome.
3. Is this virus capable of transmitting itself to dozens (or more) of people from one infected individual? This question is typically trying to get to the information surrounding the reproductive number of the novel coronavirus, or the R nought (R0), and the case-fatality rate (CFR). The R0 is another way of saying how infectious a disease is, as it offers an average of how many people a single person can infect with a virus. If the R0 is less than 1, an outbreak dies; if the average is greater than one, it spreads. Highly infectious viruses, such as measles, have R0s between 10 and 20. The SARS outbreak in 2003 had an R0 of around 3 and the typical seasonal influenza virus is around 3 as well. While we certainly know that this virus can be transmitted from person-to-person, it is not likely to be to dozens (or more) at one time. The R0, currently, has been calculated by several sources in the range of 1.4 – 4.08. We need further confirmed data for this calculation to stabilize. Be wary and cautious of factual claims of a high RO.
Read three more truths and the rest of the story in the Spring 2020 ADVOCATE, which dispels myths about COVID-19, medical laboratory professionals with disabilities, malpractice, red blood cell transfusion, medical cannabis and more. Coming soon to your mailbox or on our app! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get the password.