Fact vs. fiction: Misinformation spreading with novel coronavirus concerns


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The coronavirus family has been around for eons. The common cold and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) fall under that umbrella.

In fact, disinfectant products like Clorox wipes or Lysol list human coronavirus as one of the diseases they can kill. So if the virus is that common and easy to dispose of, why are people so worried about it?

Raleigh resident Shirley Harris said everyone talking about it is part of what makes it scary. The worries about novel coronavirus ratcheted up when health officials began talking about a pandemic of the COVID-19 strain.

Social media users may see a lot of fake cures and false information spreading on the internet. Raleigh resident Ahmed Amer worries about that misinformation.

“I’d probably defer to any sort of medical experts about how bad it is, how contagious it is, how it’s spreading, (and) all that stuff,” Amer said.

The virus is spread primarily from coughing, but it’s still not known if people can catch it by touching a surface previously touched by an infected person then putting a hand to their mouth.

“The hallmarks of it are fever, coughing, (and) shortness of breath isolated more to your lungs,” said Jessica Dixon, an infection prevention specialist at WakeMed.

Scientists, like Dixon, said COVID-19 is generally worse than a bad cold, but not as bad as the flu. When it’s fatal, it’s generally because of underlying health conditions.

“The deaths we are seeing out of China and other countries, most are in men — older men with other health problems,” Dixon said.

Dixon said that, although novel coronavirus deaths are getting a lot of attention, people need to look at the larger picture when compared to other viruses like the flu.

“Hundreds of thousands of people die because millions of people get the flu,” she said. “So far, we have less than 100,000 people who have coronavirus, so we have a couple of thousand deaths.”

There’s still a lot unknown about the novel coronavirus because this variation is a new mutation. Experts believe it could become endemic. That means it will always be around, like other coronaviruses that cause mild colds, or it could become a seasonal health hazard like the flu.

The best advice when it comes to the novel coronavirus is the same commonsense advice for other diseases: wash hands frequently, avoid contact with sick people, and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing.

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