Novel coronavirus: credible resources and incredible people
So. Much. Misinformation. About. The. Novel. Coronavirus.
If you’ve seen conflicting info, there are two reasons for it:
- This is a novel virus introducing itself to humans for the first time just a few months ago, so we’re gathering new info about it every day. The science is progressing very, very quickly, but we still don’t know everything yet. (We DO know the most important thing: how to stop spreading it. See the “What we can all do to protect our health” section below.)
- People are legit worried and that makes them susceptible to believing and sharing misinformation. Maybe they’re well-meaning, maybe they know *just enough* to be dangerous, and maybe they’re one of the few who simply make sh!t up. Either way, all of the sources listed below are from credible experts. (And some of it may change slightly as we study the virus and keep learning more.)
Some rando on Twitter tried to convince me that I need a full hazmat suit and goggles just to go outside. Yes, outside where the air is FRESH and not coughed on! She was either convinced that this is true, or was trying to
befriend influence me with a sophisticated disinformation campaign because Bot Sentinel said she wasn’t a bot.
I found it interesting that she specifically reached out to reply to me with her very-concerned-for-my-health sounding tweet after I shared that simple soap and water inactivates the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the one that causes COVID-19)—which it does (evidence for this is shared below).
So I asked her who is recommending hazmat suits?
Her response was a three paragraph article that the virus *may* be aerosol.
Clearly no experts are recommending hazmat suits and goggles.
In a nutshell:
Beware of people who aren’t experts who have “done their own research” & “found something truly disturbing” about COVID-19 that they had to share in a thread/blog post. They are likely misinterpreting the data & scaring people.
— Jonathan “Social Distancing” Jarry (@crackedscience) March 13, 2020
This post is a curation of credible information about the novel coronavirus from trusted health authorities. Their websites are being updated daily, so keep your eyes on them. Things are changing quickly as testing is (finally) ramping up in some countries. Follow the experts.
I also share some incredible things people are doing in light of this pandemic. People are amazing and thoroughly impress me. The front-line people, the helpers, the examples of how to help others, and the ideas on how to get through maintaining physical distance from others.
(This post is looong. Feel free to read it all or scroll up to the Table of Contents and click on the section you’re particularly interested in.)
What we can all do to protect our health
Some people are hoarding toilet paper, while others are partying in huge groups.
If there is just one takeaway from this post, heed what your local (regional/provincial/state) or country experts are saying. Different regions have different needs, demographics, supply chains, and medical capacities.
A few countries are beyond the tipping point of this pandemic and I really feel for them. Some don’t even know their situation right now because they haven’t tested enough people yet. Others (like Canada) still have a few more days or weeks to prevent widespread transmission. Do what you need to do to be part of the solution and stop the spread.
There is an exception, though.
If your local or country government is saying something opposite from the WHO, listen to the WHO. If your local or country government has a track record of dismissing or silencing scientists and experts, listen to the WHO. (Some countries seem to be playing partisan politics, not conducting adequate testing, and worrying more about the economy and public perception, rather than understanding basic concepts of public health—if you live in a country like that, listen to the WHO).
In other words, If you’re not being told to wash you hands thoroughly and often, stop touching your face, cough/sneeze into your elbow, avoid physical contact (handshakes), etc. get your info here:
- WHO updates on the novel coronavirus pandemic
- The European Centre for Disease Control
- The National Institutes of Health
- Coronavirus resources from the Public Health Agency of Canada (also follow your province/regional/city health unit)
*The most important things to do*
Wash your hands thoroughy and often
— Ron Vezina (@Vez_says) March 4, 2020
- The virus is in almost every country (hence the term “pandemic“). We all need to stop the person-to-person spread. Now.
- Prevention is key, this is why hand washing and social distancing is the first line of defense and is extremely important everywhere.
- PRO TIP: Wash your hand towels more often, too.
- Why soap works with this SARS-CoV-2 virus by Chemistry Professor, Dr. Palli Thordarson.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers (with at least 60% alcohol) are effective against enveloped viruses like coronaviruses (even though they’re not effective against all viruses), by Dr Manal Mohammed, Lecturer of Medical Microbiology.
- The best evidence right now is that the novel coronavirus is spread through droplets (it’s not airborne like measles). This is why most cases are due to travel from an affected place and close contacts with a traveller. To confirm how it has spread and contain it anyone who tests positive should be asked about all the people who they have recently had contact with.
Stop touching your face
- This is so, so hard for me (but I’m trying)! Here’s how it spreads viruses and why it’s so hard to stop, by StatNews.
Cover coughs and sneezes (without your hands)
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue—not your hands! Never your hands.
Clean frequently touched areas
- Like door knobs, cupboard handles, light switches, toilet flush handles, etc.
Can food be contaminated? pic.twitter.com/i9QPpaHWQy
— Daily Blast LIVE (@dailyblastlive) March 13, 2020
Avoid physical contact
- The WHO’s global recommendations are to stay AT LEAST 1m (3′) away from anyone who coughs or sneezes. Some countries have doubled this to stay away from everyone (coughing or not) by 2m (6′).
- Some countries also want you to start “social distancing” by avoiding crowds and not leaving your house unless you absolutely have to. In Canada, we’ve been asked to do this since about March 14th (if you have a reference of when this became official, please add it to the comments below).
2/2 A few #COVID19 #SocialDistancing tips:
➡️Stay 2 metres apart
➡️Avoid crowded places
➡️If you must go out, consider off-peak hours
➡️If you are sick, stay home
For more information on being prepared: https://t.co/GEvLCV9c2b
— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) March 17, 2020
WHY WE NEED SOCIAL DISTANCING, as illustrated by Scrubs.
— In the House like Cool J. (@naima) March 15, 2020
- Here are short videos of four different scenarios on how social distancing can work when more and more of us stop touching people and stay home unless we really need something: Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to “flatten the curve,” by the Washington Post
- Why we need to take action before things seem bad. This is how diseases spread (8 min video).
- Here’s the best resource I can find on how the novel coronavirus spreads (hint: person-to-person via droplets).
If you’re advised to self-monitor or isolate, do it
- Here are the Canadian recommendations for self-monitoring, self-isolation, and isolation for COVID-19
- Coronavirus, Social Distancing and Self Quarantine: John’s Hopkins
Help prevent the spread of #COVID19 by practicing #SocialDistancing. While you may not feel sick, we ask that you be mindful of those more vulnerable in our community & thank you for your efforts to keep everyone healthy. More info: https://t.co/ZFIuRwDgA9 pic.twitter.com/7QjBaVszgJ
— Toronto Public Health (@TOPublicHealth) March 17, 2020
Stay home if you’re sick
- In fact, many countries are asking (or forcing) everyone to stay home, sick or not.
- Please do this.
- Just do it.
- Do it.
Simple, illustrated easy-to-read resources to share far and wide
- Here’s a COVID-19 Information Sheet created by Epidemiologist Assistant Professor Dr. Ellie Murray (containts: avoid crowds, stay home if you’re sick, clean frequently used surfaces, cover coughs and sneezes, clean your hands often)
- 2019 novel coronavirus illustrated mini-course created by Virologist and Health Science Writer Dr. Shauna Bennet.
- The best thing everyday Americans can do to fight coronavirus? #StayHome, save lives, created by several doctors.
- Here’s the new JAMA Patient Page about COVID-19.
What we know so far about the novel coronavirus
- To keep track of this novel coronavirus pandemic, you can check out Our World in Data.
- Brand new FutureLearn eCourse on the Coronavirus, by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team
Symptoms versus the cold, flu, and allergies
- COVID-19 symptoms compared to the common cold, flu, and allergies published by Business Insider based on information from the CDC, WHO, and ACAAI
Acetaminophen/Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen
- As of March 21, there is no longer an official reco against use of ibuprofen. Here’s where the mixed messages came from (and why):
“Scientists and doctors around the world are banding together in exceptional ways, sharing their data, opining, interpreting and modelling. The speed of knowledge acquisition is also unusual: after learning of this new disease in last December, scientists published the virus’ genetic code in early January of this year. As information races in, journalists and social media influencers will be quick to share the data but don’t be surprised if it changes rapidly. Science is like a dog on a leash, sniffing left, sniffing right, but eventually moving in one clear direction. With COVID-19, that dog is on rollerblades. Hang on to something. It’s going to be quite a ride.”
“Flatten the curve” means what, exactly?
- You’ve heard we need to “flatten the curve”—it means we keep from spreading it too far too fast so our hospitals and medical facilitites don’t all get overwhelmed at once. From a personal perspective, it means doing all the things mentioned above (wash hands thoroughly and often, stop touching your face, cover coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue, clean frequently touched areas, avoid physical contact, self-isolate or quarantine when asked to, and stay home if you’re sick).
If you only learn one thing about #COVID19 today make it this: everyone’s job is to help FLATTEN THE CURVE. With thanks to @XTOTL & @TheSpinoffTV for the awesome GIF. Please share far & wide. pic.twitter.com/O7xlBGAiZY
— Dr Siouxsie Wiles (@SiouxsieW) March 8, 2020
What do we know about the novel coronavirus and autoimmunity or immunodeficiency?
Autoimmunity is when your immune system works a bit too hard and starts attacking not just invading infections, but your own cells. Immunodeficiency is the opposite, when the immune system isn’t attacking invading infections enough. For more info, scroll down to the section called: How does your immune system work?
As of now, the prevailing wisdom is to prevent COVID-19 with clean hands, staying home, etc.
- At-risk groups and cocooning: Health Service Executive (Ireland)
- COVID-19 and Immunodeficiency: Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy
How long do coronaviruses last on surfaces?
- A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine today (March 17, 2020) says that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the current novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19) has a similar surface stability to the SARS-CoV-1 virus (the virus that causes SARS). It’s viable on:
- copper, up to 4 hours
- cardboard, up to 24 hours
- stainless steel, about 48-72 hours
- plastic, about 72 hours
Getting individual testing kits, vaccines, and treatments
Because this is a brand-spanking new virus, there are NO scientifically validated home testing kits, vaccines, nor treatments. Many scientists and companies around the world are working very, very hard to make these happen. I’ve seen clinical trials registered to start testing these. Right now, there is no concrete timeline when these will be available, but they may come around fast.
Beware of fake testing kits, masks, etc. being smuggled advertised. Many are being seized by authorities. I’ve seen people hawking “remedies” and “cures.” The best thing we can do now is not get it or spread it (stay home, wash your hands, if you need to go out then use social/physical distancing, etc.).
As of March 24, the Journal of the American Medical Association says, “Although many drugs have in vitro activity against different coronaviruses, no clinical evidence currently supports the efficacy and safety of any drug against any coronavirus in humans, including SARS-CoV-2.” Dr. Kalil goes on to say, “the administration of any unproven drug as a ‘last resort’ wrongly assumes that benefit will be more likely than harm.”
One of the hardest things to accept is the lack of concrete answers. I get it! I want them, too. I don’t want to be cooped up and have my kids miss school for weeks (or longer). I don’t want to worry about my parents and in-laws getting this (they’re in the higher-risk category). I want this to go away.
Scientists are learning more and more about the novel coronavirus every day. There are daily updates on many credible websites, like the WHO. As studies are conducted, reviewed, and published we will learn more. Every day we’re learning more. When any vaccines or treatments are shown to be both safe and effective, they will likely be fasttracked through your government’s regulatory system.
Don’t trust randos on the internet.
The number one thing we can all do right now is prevent the spread to flatten the curve. We’re at a critical time and our window of opportunity is closing. Let’s do our part with handwashing, not touching our faces, covering coughs and sneezes with sleeves or tissues, cleaning surfaces, avoiding physical contact as much as possible, and staying home if we’re sick (or, just staying home, period).
We can do this together!
What about supplements, foods, and a healthy lifestyle?
Prevention is always the best medicine, so keeping your hands clean, staying home, etc. will have the most power to protect you from the novel coronavirus. Having said that, there is a small amount of evidence that certain supplements may help to reduce the risk of respiratory infections like the common cold or flu (not on the novel coronavirus). These are Vitamins C and D and zinc lozenges. There is also at least one study looking into the possibility that IV vitamin C may help those who become infected.
Healthy lifestyle habits are associated with better immune function. The most helpful thing to do is get enough quality sleep. Secondly, eat more unprocessed (whole) foods.
For more details about supplements and lifestyle interventions, see Examine’s review of supplements for coronavirus.
And, Health Canada just issued a warning about health products that make false or misleading claims to prevent, treat or cure COVID-19.
The cool science behind the test for the novel coronavirus
- How the coronavirus test works (we’re literally testing its genes), by McGill Office for Science in Society.
🧬Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR)
🧬Extract viral #RNA from sample
🧬Convert to #DNA by reverse transcriptase
🧬#Amplify by PCR
🧬#Detect amplified DNA (gene in SARS-CoV-2) = (+)
🧬No amplified DNA = (-) pic.twitter.com/VbIJKMSuzX
— Laurel Coons 🧬🧬🧬 (@LaurelCoons) March 14, 2020
How the pandemic is affecting food, agriculture, groceries, and cooking
- A Boom Time for the Bean Industry: New York Times
- There’s psychology behind the foods we don’t buy in a crisis: The Counter
- Stock-ups favor meat, but not forever: Blue Book Services
- From Spain to Germany, Farmers Warn of Fresh Food Shortages: Bloomberg
Where’d this virus even come from?
Viruses are unpredictable
- Visual history of pandemics: Humans have consistently been exposed to pandemics throughout history. We’ve survived several over the centuries (this novel coronavirus is not a new phenomenon, just a new strain of an ever-evolving virus). Note that the number for the novel coronavirus will continue to increase until it’s over.
Viruses are always one step ahead of us
They’re not smart, they just replicate really, really fast and make mistakes while they’re at it. Those random “mistakes” can sometimes result in a whole new infectious disease. Kinda like how random mistakes can cause several cancers. Random mistakes happen. Naturally.
- How viruses stay one step ahead of our efforts to kill them, by Susannah Loche at Vox.
- Mutations and evolution of viruses, with examples of the flu and seasonal coronaviruses, by Scientist Trevor Bedford.
- Viruses also have the ability to “jump” species. Once in a while, new (“novel”) strains infect humans.
How a virus invades your body
How A #Virus Invades Your Body:
🦠A virus particle attaches to a #host cell
🦠Releases its #genetic instructions into host cell
🦠Recruits host cell’s enzymes
🦠Enzymes make parts for new virus particles
🦠New particles assemble parts into new viruses
🦠Particles break free pic.twitter.com/qScmxzLa37
— Laurel Coons 🧬🧬🧬 (@LaurelCoons) March 5, 2020
How your immune system works
- Your immune system doesn’t stop you from getting infected (that’s what all the staying home, hand washing, etc. does). Instead, it helps your body to fight viruses and bacteria after they get into your body.
- Autoimmune diseases occur when your immune system is too active and starts “attacking” your body’s own cells.
Examples of how this novel coronavirus pandemic is bringing out the best in people
The past few days have emphasized even more that sometimes we have opportunities to pass through each other’s lives and make a difference along the way when most unexpected. Lift each other up; the smallest gestures of kindness can leave the biggest impacts!
— Natalie Panek (@nmpanek) March 17, 2020
- Coronavirus: Kind Canadians start ‘caremongering’ trend: BBC
- Niagara distiller making free hand sanitizer for police, health-care workers, others: CBC
- Students at Ryerson University here in Toronto have set up a dashboard to watch out for and correct false and misleading information on COVID-19
- Personally, I’m very happy to see many companies and governments do the right thing by telling people to follow all public health guidelines and stay home if they’re feeling ill. I’m also glad that many of them are making accommodations so people can work from home and committing to continuing to pay people for work they cannot do because they’re sick or their business closes. This is how we step up and help each other. We’re all in this together.
Medical students around the country, taken off clinical rotations due to #COVID, have set up babysitting networks to support essential hospital staff. People are being incredible humans, everywhere you turn.
— Esther Choo (@choo_ek) March 16, 2020
- How to keep the greater good in mind, by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
- Reminding me of my personal heroes, all of whom contributed to the science of public health and epidemiology by how they discovered, managed, and prevented epidemics. Starting with Ignaz Semmelweis, the doctor who championed handwashing in the mid 1800s.
Shoutout to some incredible people helping us all get through this pandemic
If there’s one thing that I turn to for hope right now, it’s this: medical researchers are some of the smartest and hardest working people on earth, and they’re all working together right now — past lines of partisanship, nationality, or anything else that often divides us.
— Max Fawcett (@maxfawcett) March 13, 2020
My spouse is a physician in the emergency dept, and is actively treating #coronavirus patients. We just made the difficult decision for him to isolate & move into our garage apartment for the foreseeable future as he continues to treat patients. (1/5)
— Rachel Patzer, PhD (@RachelPatzerPhD) March 17, 2020
- Canadian scientists make COVID-19 research breakthrough, isolating virus: CTV News
- Medical students at McGill University are creating a daily update of newly published studies on COVID-19. Here is their archive of daily emails.
Be kind to your lab. I have never felt this level of anxiety. Micro labs are working many hours with little sleep and feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. We are bringing up testing AND fighting the system at the same time. #COVID19 #IDTwitter #WashYourHands
— UNC Clin Micro (@UNC_Clin_Micro) March 15, 2020
Shout out to all the infectious disease experts who are making time to speak to reporters, despite dealing with tests and patients and anxieties, and generously sharing cell and home phone numbers. I salute you and am so deeply grateful.
— Apoorva Mandavilli (@apoorva_nyc) March 13, 2020
How you can help
- Resources for researchers and clinicians fighting COVID-19 in Canada
- If you’re a scientist or grad student, here is a thread of opportunities to donate items and volunteer your time.
How to spot and stop the spread of misinformation
- Amid Coronavirus Pandemic, Misinformation Puts Public Health at Risk: Thrive Global
- Challenge online behaviour: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
- ‘Fake news’ during an infectious disease epidemic could make the outbreak worse: National Institute for Health Research
- The truth about the coronavirus and the global war on truth: National Observer
- On Twitter, detect bots with Bot Sentinel
- How fake news is spread: Leesa Klich
Stuck at home? Here are a few things to do
- If you’re under isolation or quarantine, or even socially distancing from others, stay in touch! Give friends and family a call or email them, and offer to grocery shop for your neighbours.
- Spend a few moments thanking those on the front lines right now: doctors, nurses, public health officials, hospital staff (including the cleaners and janitors), laboratory staff, support workers, scientists doing urgent research, etc. Maybe you can help them out, too?
Mr Rogers once said “When I was a boy & I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You’ll always find people who are helping.'”
— Duncan McCue (@duncanmccue) March 28, 2020
- Go for a walk outside. Get fresh air and sunshine. Stretch your legs. No hazmat suit or goggles required. 👍
- Many libraries have ebooks and audiobooks you can borrow online. Check yours.
In Seville, Spain, residents of an entire apartment complex couldn’t leave their homes due to the quarantine.
So a fitness instructor went up to a rooftop and held a workout class.
Neighbors joined in from their windows and balconies.pic.twitter.com/Ez0iF7vwf3
— Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) March 15, 2020
- Sing with your neighbours like these quarantined Italians: Vox
- Learn about the health effects of climate change with a free edX course via Harvard
- Take a virtual tour of these 12 museums and galleries, by Travel and Leisure
- Listen to science podcasts, recommended by Dr. Jacquelyn Gill, Associate Professor of Climate Change
- Re-create your cancelled cruise like this couple did.
- YouTube channels about science and health for adults and kids.
- Free online course: Fighting COVID-19 with Epidemiology: A Johns Hopkins Teach-Out
- Hack fitness with the latest in exercise science
- Check out Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s YouTube channel: Global Weirding: Climate, Politics, and Religion
Quarantine day 6. pic.twitter.com/er652Oy3Ki
— jamie (@gnuman1979) March 16, 2020
Kid- and teen-friendly ideas if they’re stuck at home
- How to talk to your kids about the novel coronavirus, interview with two experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
- Here are some age-appropriate COVID-19 info sheets for kids (and adults) in dozens of languages.
- Some expert advice to kids from Canada’s Kids Help Phone (note the 24/7 support is only available in Canada, but your country or region may have a similar resource, so ask around and see if you can find it).
- From above section: stay in touch with friends and family, go for a walk, colour, check your local library for downloadable resources, and find some quality (credible) YouTube channels.
- Beam science, exploration, adventure, and conservation into your home classroom.
- Take a virtual tour of a Canadian farm!
- Your kids can chat live with a scientist! Sign up to Skype a scientist
- Children’s authors are doing online readings and activities
- Google Earth Voyager has guided virtual tours of places around the world.
- Writing classes for teens, by NYT Bestselling Author Kelly Yang
- Here’s a list of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) educational resources and their links
STEM colouring pages
I didn’t put these in the adults or kid’s section because I’ve taken up colouring, so it’s for all ages! (STEM = Science Technology Engineering Math.)
- Download five women in STEM colouring pages, by Nina Chhita, Medical Writer
- Download science is beautiful colouring pages, by Christine Liu, Neuroscience PhD student
Stay fit with online fitness classes
- Fitness blender has hundreds of free workout videos
- Free yoga videos from Adrienne
- 💪🏻 How to preseve your muscle pass during the quarantine 👉🏻 5 tips by Dr. Stuart Phillips 🤸🏻♂️🥛
Free biz training courses
- Get your blog posts to rank higher in Google with the basic SEO course through Yoast (free for now)
- Learn how to blog for your business with this Ahrefs course that’s free right now.
If you need to laugh, here’s some light-hearted humour about what we’re all going through right now
- Here’s one way to stop touching your face.
- Indiana Jones and the last toilet paper roll.
- What do to if you can’t cough in your elbow (#Comedy, not recommended).
- Let this cat show you how to socially distance yourself.
- Depending on how long this continues, we should look out for these when we start socializing again.
- “Super bad transmittable contagious awful virus” song (my fav line: “We’re asymptomatic while it’s in incubation.”)
Go to credible sources only. Experts include: the WHO, your local public health office, epidemiologists, virologists, and science communicators.
Let’s leave with this thought:
This pandemic puts paid to the notion that there is no ‘such thing as society’.
We’re all intertwined, co-dependent + connected to each other.
Life is a web of relationships + that tapestry is the most precious part of life.
Hoping this will remind us of our human community.
— Francesca Martinez (@chessmartinez) March 13, 2020
Signing off and toasting: To credible resources and incredible people!
Over to you
Do you have another question? Want to share links to articles you’ve seen that show how this is bringing out the best in people or what to do when you’re stuck at home?
I’d love to know (in the comments below)!
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Use coupon code: NOVEL (as in the novel coronavirus).