Coronavirus myths: Drunk elephants and anti-malarial drugs

The origin of this photo is unknown but the story associated with it has been debunked by National Geographic.

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The COVID-19 situation is constantly developing and so are the myths and rumours surrounding the pandemic. It can be difficult to sort through the barrage of fake and misleading social media posts. The Cayman Compass is seeking to dispel some of the misinformation.

Can I catch COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms?

The chance of this is low. The main way to catch the disease is through respiratory droplets produced by someone who is coughing, the World Health Organization says.

“The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms at all is very low. However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease,” WHO wrote.

“It is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has, for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill. WHO is assessing ongoing research on the period of transmission of COVID-19.”

Did dolphins appear in canals in Venice? Did elephants get drunk off corn wine in China?

Not exactly. Heartwarming social media posts have gone viral – no pun intended – alleging that animals have reclaimed natural spaces in the absence of humans, who are sheltering indoors to avoid coronavirus.

Some of these posts, however, are misleading or entirely untrue. National Geographic ran a fact check of several images, purporting to depict swans and dolphins in Venetian canals and drunk elephants passed out in an empty field in Yunnan, China.

“The swans in the viral posts regularly appear in the canals of Burano, a small island in the greater Venice metropolitan area, where the photos were taken. The ‘Venetian’ dolphins were filmed at a port in Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea, hundreds of miles away,” National Geographic wrote.

“No one has figured out where the drunken elephant photos came from, but a Chinese news report debunked the viral posts: While elephants did recently come through a village in Yunnan Province, China, their presence isn’t out of the norm, they aren’t the elephants in the viral photos, and they didn’t get drunk and pass out in a tea field.”

Did coronavirus originate from bats?

This is one possibility, but the origin of the virus has not yet been established, the World Health Organization says. Genetic testing has not yet confirmed the animal origin of COVID-19, although bats and pangolins have been identified as suspects.

Scientists are also still working to map the origin of COVID-19 and identify a ‘patient zero’. While the first COVID-19 case was initially confirmed in Wuhan, China, in early December, the first cases may have come sooner than that. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported that government data now traces the first case in China back to 17 Nov. There is still a lot of research to be done to fully understand the source of coronavirus.

Have anti-malarial drugs been approved by the US Food and Drugs Administration to treat COVID-19?

While US President Donald Trump recently stated that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine had been FDA approved and would immediately become available, the FDA clarified, “There are no FDA-approved therapeutics or drugs to treat, cure or prevent COVID-19.”

The FDA has, however, approved patient trials to test the drugs for treatment of coronavirus patients.

Efforts are under way worldwide to identify COVID-19 treatments and vaccines.

A study published on the website bioRxiv identifies 69 drug candidates that are being researched by scientists for treatment.

The World Health Organization has also launched a global drug trial, inviting partners worldwide to participate, as part of its Solidarity campaign. The initiative will focus on testing four of the most promising drug therapies to treat the virus.

Have you heard a coronavirus rumour you’d like to address? Email [email protected].

Full coverage: Coronavirus

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