Novel coronavirus: credible resources and incredible people

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Novel coronavirus: credible resources and incredible people

Novel coronavirus with microscopic image

So. Much. Misinformation. About. The. Novel. Coronavirus.

If you’ve seen conflicting info, there are two reasons for it:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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:

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:

*The most important things to do*

Wash your hands thoroughy and often

Stop touching your face

Cover coughs and sneezes (without your hands)

Clean frequently touched areas

  • Like door knobs, cupboard handles, light switches, toilet flush handles, etc.

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).

If you’re advised to self-monitor or isolate, do it

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

What we know so far about the novel coronavirus

Symptoms versus the cold, flu, and allergies

Acetaminophen/Paracetamol vs Ibuprofen

“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).

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.

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 pandemic is affecting food, agriculture, groceries, and cooking

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 a virus invades your body

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

  • 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

How you can help

How to spot and stop the spread of misinformation

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?

  • 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.

Kid- and teen-friendly ideas if they’re stuck at home

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.)

Stay fit with online fitness classes

Free biz training courses

If you need to laugh, here’s some light-hearted humour about what we’re all going through right now

Conclusion

 

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:

 

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)!

Want a fairly constant flow of credible health information (and content marketing strategy)? Follow me on Twitter.

Want to learn more about how to combat misinformation? Grab FREE access to the course Health News: Fake vs Real

Use coupon code: NOVEL (as in the novel coronavirus).

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