At the time of writing, France has had 674 confirmed coronavirus fatalities. How worried should you really be about coronavirus or, more specifically, the novel coronavirus Covid-19? Let’s look at some of the common rumours and myths.

Covid-19 is the same as SARS

It’s important to make some scientific distinctions here. Coronavirus refers to a group of viruses which cause disease in animals and, very rarely, are transmitted to humans in some form. This family of viruses includes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). The coronavirus currently in the news has been named Covid-19. Covid-19, MERS and SARS are all examples of coronaviruses, but they are not the same. SARS and MERS infected 10,500 people, with around 1,550 lives lost between them. The mortality rates for SARS and MERS are 10 per cent and 30 per cent respectively, while Covid-19’s fatality rate is currently calculated at 1.4 per cent.

Covid-19 comes from eating bats

SARS was thought to have been transmitted from bats to civets and then to humans, while MERS is thought to have come from camels.

Covid-19 is thought to have originated at a market in Wuhan where both live animals and meat were for sale. These markets are typically very busy, and animals are sometimes butchered onsite. Under these conditions cross-contamination is almost unavoidable. No bats or bat meat products were on sale at this market.

The animal source of the human outbreak of Covid-19 hasn’t been identified yet, but bats, snakes and pangolins have all been suggested as possible carriers, as they may have bitten or otherwise infected the animals or meat for sale.

We have a worldwide Covid-19 pandemic

The prevalence of diseases is usually described in the following ways: outbreak, endemic, epidemic and pandemic. An outbreak refers to many incidences of a new disease in a population that has not experienced it before. An epidemic is an outbreak that attacks many people at the same time and may spread through communities. An epidemic becomes a pandemic when it is worldwide. An illness is described as “endemic” when it is permanently present in a particular locale or group of organisms.

At the time of writing, a pandemic has been declared. This means that the disease is worldwide.

People of Asian descent are more susceptible to Covid-19

Some sensationalist media has circulated suggesting that ethnic Asians are more likely to catch and carry the disease. Ethnicity has no bearing whatsoever on the risk of contracting the disease, and any suggestion that Asian communities or Asian-style food are more likely to carry or transmit the disease is false.

So… should we be worried about Covid-19 in France?

While reports of Covid-19 are concerning, there is no reason to panic. The virus is transmitted via respiratory droplets, which are expelled when people breathe, cough or sneeze. You can pick up the germs from touching something that has been contaminated, for example the Covid-19 virus can survive for up to 12 hours on metal surfaces like handrails. To contract it from another person you would need to breathe in their exhalations (which typically only happens if you stand within six feet of an infected person, or 10 feet if they sneeze) and/or bring their expelled phlegm or saliva close to your face. This is why so many cases are between families, people living in very close quarters or transmissions from patients to medical staff.

The spread of Covid-19 can be diminished by maintaining excellent personal hygiene, as with the flu. Wearing a face mask may be advised by your healthcare professional and you should try to minimise what you touch when you are out and about, washing your hands regularly. Hand sanitising fluid is effective if it contains over 60% alcohol. If you have a compromised immune system due to a chronic illness or your age then contact your local health provider for advice.

France is now in lockdown, meaning that travel in and out of France is limited. The advice changes day by day, so keep one eye on the news and be sensible.

If you are worried you may have contracted Covid-19, contact your local health provider via telephone for advice. Many healthcare centres are dissuading people from turning up unannounced, in order that measures can be taken to contain any suspected cases and prevent further infections.

This article is updated regularly to ensure the information is up-to-date. This is a developing story.

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