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Common Myths About The New Coronavirus, Debunked By An Expert

Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager By Abby Moore
Editorial Operations Manager
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Medical Masks

Almost as quickly as coronavirus is spreading, information about the infection is also spreading. But unfortunately, there's a lot of misinformation circulating, too.

We consulted IDSA expert and infectious disease specialist Amesh Adalja, M.D., to find out what we should and shouldn't believe when it comes to the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV.

Are children immune to coronavirus? 

While the bulk of severe cases have affected adults, that does not mean children are immune to the virus. "There are four kinds of coronavirus," Adalja said. "We know children can be infected with those and have very mild symptoms," Adalja said.

Because their symptoms are less severe, these children might simply go undiagnosed. "The predisposition for severe disease is greater in older adults or those with other medical conditions, so that could be why children are less represented," he said.

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Is coronavirus more dangerous than the flu?

According to Adalja, it's hard to make that kind of distinction so early on. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for testing require patients to have lower respiratory infections and symptoms like coughs and shortness of breath. 

"They're not just testing people with a runny nose," he said. "I think once they start doing that, they will find the coronavirus is much more widespread but much more mild than we think." 

Once these mild cases are acknowledged, Adalja said the fatality rate of coronavirus will likely drop, and might even fall below influenza. "We just can't really say until we get the proper testing," he said.

Can coronavirus be transmitted through packages shipped from China?

Thankfully, coronavirus is one of the few items Amazon can't ship. 

As with all viruses, there's a lengthy period of time the germs can survive on surfaces, "but that's really dependent on the environmental conditions in terms of humidity, temperature, and UV light exposure," he said. The days-long journey a package would undergo would likely be erratic enough to kill any pathogens linked to coronavirus. 

"I really don't think there's an appreciable risk in packages shipped from China," he assured. 

Can our pets contract and spread coronavirus?

According to Adalja, coronaviruses can infect several types of mammals. "For example, we do know it can infect pigs, cows, bats," he said. Up to this point, though, household pets have not been a mechanism of transmission. 

While he wouldn't be surprised to see domestic animals get infected, it's not currently a major concern. 

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Can eating garlic protect against coronavirus?

Because garlic has antimicrobial properties, some people have suspected that it might protect against coronavirus. But according to Adalja, "There's not any strong evidence that garlic can protect you." 

It might taste great and amplify a meal, but "unless your breath smells bad and [infected] people don't want to come near you," it won't keep you from contracting the disease. 

Should people avoid public transportation or other public places?

For the average American, there's no reason to restrict your current movements. In fact, in the middle of flu season, you're much more likely to contract influenza than the coronavirus (here are some tips to avoid the flu). 

"It's important that people keep their risk perspective straight," he said. According to the World Health Organization, 82% of cases are mild. "I think that really should reassure people that although this virus might come here and have an impact, it's likely not going to be catastrophic." 

While debunking these myths allows us to breathe a sigh of relief, it's still important to protect ourselves against germs. Adalja suggests staying home when you're feeling sick, keeping a distance of 6 feet or more from people who are coughing or sneezing, and always practicing good hand-washing. 

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