A WhatsApp forward claims that coronavirus (spelled as ‘korona virus’), a deadly form of virus from China, may come to India very soon. To avoid contracting it, the message advises users to avoid cold drinks, ice creams, kulfi, ice colas, milk sweets older than 48 hours, or any form of preserved food.
India and the Wuhan Coronavirus
The new strain of coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China has triggered panic across the world, with cases being confirmed in several other countries such as the US, Japan, Singapore, South Korea Vietnam and Thailand — and with over 100 deaths.
Considering the death toll, it is safe to conclude that the virus, called 2019-nCoV, is indeed potentially deadly. It can spread from human contact.
Suspected cases have been reported from various parts of India, such as Jaipur, Delhi, and Maharashtra (the two cases were eventually tested negative in the city). But no positive cases have been detected in the country yet.
How Does It Spread?
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia.
The WHO has suggested ways to protect oneself from the risk of contracting the coronavirus infection:
- Frequently cleaning hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands
- Avoid close contact with anyone that has fever and cough
- Thoroughly cook meat and eggs
- Avoid unprotected contact with live wild or farm animals
The prevention methods suggested by the WHO are common for preventing any viruses that can lead to respiratory illnesses — and they don’t mention ice-creams, cold drinks, milkshakes or any preserved food.
FIT spoke to doctors to understand if the new strain of the virus can spread by consuming any of the food items mentioned in the WhatsApp forward.
Dr Sumit Ray is a Senior Consultant, Critical Care Medicine. He says, “There is no truth in this claim. The virus is worrying because it has mutated to become transmissible through human contact. But unless the food has been coughed into or spat into by an infected person — an extremely unlikely probability — there is no reason to believe a person will contract it.”
FIT also spoke to Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. He said that although no evidence to support such a claim exists, it is important to acknowledge that the medical community is in a very early stage of understanding the virus. “Respiratory viruses don’t generally behave like that. Human to human contact through coughing, sneezing, secretions or handshakes is still the most concerning way of transmission — not food.”
Still, it’s important to keep a watch on any recent developments to better understand the virus and take the required precautions, he adds.