Fact Check: Incorrect Rumors About Coronavirus
Facts and falsehoods about coronavirus explained by Professor Lee Keun-hwa
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Alongside the disease, much information about the coronavirus is spreading around our society. More often than not, the information is incorrect. However, it is not easy for us to winnow out the facts from falsehoods. Professor Lee Keun-hwa (Department of Medical Microbiology) fact checked some of the wide-spread rumors about the virus to help Hanyangians better protect themselves.
Q. There are many types of coronavirus.
A. The viruses evolved into two major strains, the “L” type and the “S” type. Although the S-type was found to be the ancestral version, the L-type is more prevalent than the S-type by approximately 7:3. This is because the L-type is relatively more aggressive and fast-spreading than the S-type. Nevertheless, the relative frequency of the L-type decreased after early January. Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressures on the L-type as compared to on the S-type, due to its aggressiveness in transmitting itself.
Q. In Italy, the coronavirus mutated into a form that is four-times stronger, and this will prolong the epidemic.
A. There is no evidence that the coronavirus mutated into a more aggressive form in Italy. Still, the epidemic curve (the frequency of new cases over time from the onset of disease) is increasing in many parts of the world including Europe, the U.S., and Africa. So, there is a high possibility that it will be a prolonged battle.
Q. Only KF94 masks can prevent the virus from entering the body.
A: "KF" stands for "Korea Filter," so the higher the figure next to KF, the better it prevents the virus. Although the size of coronavirus is too small to be prevented with masks, wearing masks with a high KF does increase the blocking effect. Therefore, they are recommended.
Q. It is possible to reuse the mask after heating it for 30 seconds and drying it in UV rays because coronavirus is weak against heat and UV rays.
A. UV rays are used to sterilize viruses. They must penetrate parts of the mask to sterilize it, because UV rays have low permeability. The part that UV does not reach cannot be sterilized. When heating masks in the microwave, it is necessary to check whether the filter is damaged. If the outer part of the mask is damaged through the microwave, it cannot prevent the virus anymore.
Q. You can get coronavirus just by touching objects or breathing air that a patient has touched or breathed.
A. It is possible to get the virus through the air or coming into contact with contaminated objects. The virus remains stable for several hours to days in aerosols and on surfaces. Therefore, touching the belongings of a patient could increase the chance of infection.
Q. Coronavirus can infect one through their eyes.
A. Several reports suggest the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva. In other words, if secretions of the infected person enter the retina of another person, the infection will be transmitted.
Q. Coronavirus is not fatal to young people.
A. Coronavirus influences every age group. Statistically, elderly people are more at risk, but there will be excessive immune responses among younger people. Therefore, coronavirus can be fatal to young people as well.
Q. Drinking hot water can prevent the disease.
A. Coronavirus gets weaker when temperature rises, but it cannot be killed by hot water. So, drinking hot water will not prevent or cure the disease.
Q. Once you get the virus, it causes pulmonary fibrosis, and you will have to be on pills for the rest of your life.
A. Pulmonary fibrosis is a respiratory disease that causes severe respiratory problems due to the hardening of lung tissue. There is no medical evidence that patients of coronavirus are likely to get pulmonary fibrosis from the disease.
Q. Development of medicine is difficult because the coronavirus mutates quickly.
A. It is true. Coronavirus can mutate very fast, so it is a little hard to develop medicines when the mutations take place affecting the core parts of the medicine. Now, the existing medicines for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and Malaria (epidemics) are being tested to see whether they are effective against the coronavirus.
Lee advises Hanyangians to prevent the coronavirus by refraining from meeting in an enclosed space, not participating in events, and keeping personal hygiene strictly by frequently washing their hands. “I hope the pandemic ends and all Hanyangians can come to school in good health,” said Lee.
Hwang Hee-won email@example.com
Photo by Park Ji-woong
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