‘Can you get coronavirus from Chinese goods? Can you get from food?’: What people are googling about COVID-19

The novel coronavirus, that originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan and has now spread to over 90 countries, including India, has put people across the world in panic mode and set off paranoia. With the death toll crossing 3,800, people are looking up every possible guidebook — the most common being Google — to find answers to their queries on the infection. From searching if coronavirus can be transmitted from Chinese food to wondering if the infection can be contracted from a dog, here are the top questions that people are asking about COVID-19.

Here are some of the answers to the frequently asked questions on Google:

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), till there is no specific medicine to treat novel coronavirus.

‘However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimized 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,’ the WHO says. In India, the first coronavirus patients in Kerala have recovered and discharged from the hospital.

Yes. Novel coronavirus has so far claimed over 3,800 lives across the globe, with China recording the maximum number of deaths. However, despite the death toll, the virus is not a life-threatening illness. Out of over 1,10,000 confirmed cases, about 3,800 people have died so far bringing the worldwide mortality rate in the coronavirus cases roughly to 3.45%. This is way lower than the 2002-2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which had a 10 per cent mortality rate. SARS had infected 8,000 people across the world and resulted in over 800 deaths.

No. Coronavirus does not spread through broiler chickens. After a number of fake messages linking the COVID-19 to the consumption of broiler chicken started doing rounds on social media last month, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation appealed to the public to not believe in such rumours or spread them. The chief veterinary officer (retired) of GHMC, Dr P Venkateshwar Reddy, said, ‘There is no scientific evidence to back this claim. In India, there is not a single case of any bird being found positive to coronavirus. The photos that are being circulated are actually images of birds infected with ‘Ranikhet’ disease,’ he had said. Reddy also said the method of cooking meat in India was safe and no virus could survive in more than 45 degrees Celsius.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, so far there are no such reports that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging. However, it is always important to follow good hygiene practices (i.e., wash hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature, and refrigerate foods promptly) when handling or preparing foods.

There is no evidence , either from the history of coronavirus cases around the world or from the genetic evolution history of the virus itself, that there is any scope of pets (or even stray animals) contracting or transmitting the virus to humans. Here’s what the WHO says on this: ‘At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new 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.’

No. The infection cannot be transmitted through mosquito bites. According to WHO, till now there has been no evidence to conclude that the virus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. ‘The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing,’ says WHO’s list of myth busters.

WHO says the chances of an infected person contaminating commercial goods is low. Hence, the risk of contracting the virus from a package that has travelled, and been exposed to different conditions and temperature is also low.

Even as the virus can stay on surfaces for a few hours or several days (depending on the type of surface), it is not very likely that it will persist on a surface after being moved and exposed to different conditions and temperatures, says WHO. ‘If you think a surface may be contaminated, use a disinfectant to clean it. After touching it, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water,’ advises WHO.

According to WHO, neither cold nor heat can kill coronavirus. There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill coronavirus or other diseases. Taking a hot bath also will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or the temperature of your bath or shower.

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