Shifu Ismail N, Senior Medical student and Health Advocate
In a time when the world is faced with a dreaded and fatal pandemic like this, dissemination of appropriate information to the public becomes paramount. Within the past 3months , since the declaration of this novel corona virus as an epidemic by WHO (Wuhan-China being the epicenter) there have been a lot of misconceptions and myths concerning this ailment. Today, what began in China as a joke has engulfed the entire globe. Cameroon witnessed her first case on March 6th , barely 3weeks ago but today we are counting over 90 cases. The first cases were more of imported cases, but recently community transmission (due to contacts with infected individuals) has become the mode of spread. So it’s therefore very important for us to get into an active and concerted fight against the spread of this dreaded pandemic. I have been meticulously following the reactions of people to COVID-19 on social media platforms and have been able to gather the following:
*1) Corona virus(COVID-19) is not real:* Even after seeing what has happened and is still going on in China, Europe, USA ,etc. some of us here in Cameroon still think COVID-19 is a fabrication. People have developed many conspiracy theories pertaining to the disease. Dear Cameroonians, this disease is real and deadly. Let no one fools you. It’s better you believe that it exists and in the end it doesn’t (you will lose nothing) than refuting it’s existence and die of negligence and stubbornness (sorry for using this word).
2) *Africans especially blacks are immune to Corona virus:* looking at the number of cases and death from the disease in Africa, one might be tempted to say that we Africans are immune to this pandemic. I want to tell everyone that there is no genetic predisposition to COVID-19 as of date. It affects all races , whites or blacks. The only reason for it’s low prevalence in Africa is because people travel less into the African countries. Africans instead travel out to seek for greener pastures. People travel more around the world for tourism and economic activities. You and I can bare witness that these domains are relatively less active in Africa. It’s even predicted that Africa might face a more serious situation if measures are not taken to reduce spread , due to our fragile health systems.
*3)Corona virus cannot survive in hot areas:* A lot of misconceptions have been circulating that the novel coronavirus cannot survive in hot climates like in the tropical Africa. Few weeks ago when the first few cases were detected in the administrative capital Yaounde, people were saying that it’s because Yaounde is relatively cold, that it will be impossible to have it in Douala. But now we are having about 25cases in Douala. We should know that no matter, the environmental temperatures, the body temperature remains constant at 36.5 to 37.5°C(homeostasis). It’s but true that when germs are exposed to excessively high temperatures, they will be killed but the environmental temperatures we have in most hot towns here in the country are not sufficient to do that. Imagine countries in the Arabian deserts of the middle East(with temperatures about 40°C at times) still have alarming numbers.
*4)Only Old people die from COVID-19:* Statistics show that the elderly population and people with chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, heart diseases and cancer are at greater risk of dying from the disease than the youths. This is due to the fact that their immune system is relatively less efficient than that of the youth with no chronic diseases. But it does not cancel the fact that youths can not die from the disease. Infact several cases of death have also been reported in age group less than 55yrs. Even if the younger age groups are less likely to die of this disease, let’s avoid spreading the pandemic to our fragile elderly population who are more likely to die from it.
5) *COVID-19 is a disease of the rich and the affluent societies:* I have heard people saying that this pandemic is only for the rich because they are the ones that usually travel abroad. Ok if we accept the ideology, now that the pandemic has travelled to meet us here , does it mean it will only choose the rich to infect?? COVID-19 as any other ailments can affect all the social strata and the outcome may even be worse in the poor than the rich.
*6) Everyone infected with COVID-19 will die:* Many people still believe that since there is no cure as of date for COVID-19, anyone infected with this novel coronavirus will die subsequently. There is a difference between CURE and TREATMENT. COVID-19 has No Cure but patients can be treated to relieve them of severe symptoms thereby giving the immune system appropriate time to wall off the infection *(supportive care).* Treatment for now is still experimental and a lot of research is being carried out to get the specific treatment and a vaccine as soon as possible. It might interest you to note that over 70,000cases have been treated in China alone. In Cameroon, 2cases have recovered. Note: case fatality rate from COVID-19 stands at 2 to 3% meaning only 2 to 3 patients out of 100 infected cases will die of the disease.
PART B: MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE PART B / MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE PREVENTION & TREATMENT:
1) Garlics, lemon, ginger, etc can help prevent and treat COVID-19:Generally fruits and vegetables are good for our health. They contain probiotics, antioxidants, vitamins which are important supplements to our diet that help boost our immune system. As of date no study has shown that any fruit or vegetable is specifically important for prevention or treatment of COVID-19. It’s good we include fruits and vegetables always in our diets as a normal routine.
2) Routine wearing of face masks prevents one from COVID-19: Yeah, face masks are an important barrier tool for prevention of droplet transmissible infections but they’re restrictions on their usage. Face masks are only recommended for people with respiratory symptoms like cough and catarrh, people suspected or confirmed with the disease, and those taking care of COVID-19 patients like health personnel (WHO and CDC recommendations). Routine putting on of face masks especially without respecting the hygienic conditions can instead make you more at risk to get COVID-19 and other droplet infections. Note:Almost all facemasks are disposable(usable only once), so don’t use a face mask more than once and remember to dispose of safely.
3) Alcohol is an antidote to the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19): Generally, taking alcohol in high quantities is unhealthy. Information has been circulating in various communities that alcohol intake can prevent and/or treat COVID-19. Some hold that , since handsanitizers are made up of some percentage of alcohol, drinking the alcohol directly will kill the virus faster. Alcohol has no place in the prevention of COVID-19. It can instead cause more deleterious effects to your body and make you to be more at risk of dying from the infection if you get infected.
4) Antibiotics are effective against COVID-19: The novel coronavirus is a virus and not a bacterium. Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections not viral infections. Antibiotics abuse is a global health concern, as it’s one of the causes of antibiotic resistance. Let’s stop using antibiotics unnecessarily.
5) Chloroquine tablets can be used to prevent and treat COVID-19: Though Chloroquine is used as one of the various experimental drugs in hospitals treating COVID-19 patients, it has not been approved as a preventative drug or cure to COVID-19. A lot of Research is still going on in this domain. Chloroquine poisoning can be more lethal than the COVID-19 itself, so stop consuming Chloroquine unprescribed. A week or two ago, Nigerian health authorities in Lagos confirmed about 3cases of Chloroquine poisoning due to it’s abuse for prevention of COVID-19 by locals. The prices even spiked as many perceived it was a messiah. Imagine removing your own money and buying death as a preventative drug… God forbid!!
The panicking is unnecessary, let’s get the facts and join hands to fight the most dreaded pandemic in modern times.
Written by: Shifu Ismail N. ( Senior Medical student and Health Advocate)