KARACHI: After Minis­ter of State for Health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed two cases of COVID-19 in Pakistan, getting accurate information about risks of contracting the disease has become more important.

However, a great deal of information being circulated on the internet is misleading and even dangerous. To counter misinformation and address public concerns, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has busted common myths on its website.

When to use a mask?

If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected COVID-19 infection. Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.

Masks are effective only when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

People of all ages can be infected by the virus. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. However, if you are hospitalised for the COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?

To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, WHO says coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.

Can pets at home spread the coronavirus?

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the COVID-19. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?

No, vaccines against pneumonia do not provide protection against coronavirus.

Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the coronavirus.

Published in Dawn, February 29th, 2020

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