Coronavirus: From Symptoms to Beer, Know Your Facts From Fiction

Rumors that the current outbreak of coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, are related to drinking beer are unfounded. (GaudiLab)

Updated, 5:12 p.m. Mar. 31.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the current coronavirus outbreak a pandemic on March 11.

While concern over the fast-spreading nature of the COVID-19 virus is understandable, misinformation seems to be spreading even faster than the disease itself.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency launched a page on its website to fight misinformation regarding the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Officials are working to assure the public there is no national quarantine at this time, and FEMA has not deployed military assets.

Conspiracy theorists (and likely some internet trolls) have even suggested a so-called cure for the disease called the "Miracle" or "Master Mineral Solution" — which, when mixed, turns into a potent form of bleach.

The Food and Drug Administration has repeatedly warned consumers not to ingest the solution, and says doing so has led to cases of "severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration and acute liver failure."

From rumors over the origin of the disease, to how far it has spread, to outlandish cures, here's what we know thus far about the coronavirus:

Are there confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Bay Area?

Yes. You can find the latest information on where coronavirus has spread in the Bay Area, and statewide, here.

There are rumors that this coronavirus is man-made. Is that true?

"There's no indication to suggest that this virus has been man-made or could could have been man-made," said Susan Philip, director of disease prevention and control at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. "What we know from coronaviruses is that they often originate in animals and cause illness in animals, but sometimes they can also cause illness in people."

There are rumors that this coronavirus comes from/can be cured by alcohol (in particular, Corona beer). Is that true? 

Nope.

"Beer or alcohol consumption doesn't either cure a person who's infected with a virus nor cause it. So there's no relationship there," Philip said.

President Donald Trump has recently described chloroquine as a "game changer" in fighting coronavirus. Is it safe to try self-medicating if I'm sick?

No.

A man has died and his wife was in critical condition in Arizona after the couple took chloroquine phosphate, an additive used to clean fish tanks that is also found in an anti-malaria medication that's been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID- 19.

The Food and Drug Administration chief said chloroquine still needs to be tested for that use.

“Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so,” said Dr. Daniel Brooks, Banner Poison and Drug Information Center medical director. “The last thing that we want right now is to inundate our emergency departments with patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.”

Where did this disease come from? 

According to the CDC, the coronavirus is actually a series of viruses common in different species of animals that can sometimes be passed on to humans. Both SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) are types of coronaviruses.

"We have seen infections and epidemics with coronavirus before," said Philip. "So while this particular virus is new and has not been described or characterized before, we are familiar with the overall family of coronaviruses from previous infectious disease and public health epidemics that have occurred."

This particular strain has been referred to as the 2019 novel (or new) coronavirus, sometimes expressed as 2019-nCoV. It has now officially been named COVID-19.

How do I know if I've been exposed? 

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses, like the flu, and will manifest as a cough, shortness of breath and fever.

How does the virus spread?

While health care professionals don't know exactly how this disease spreads, the CDC says that coronaviruses are mainly spread through "respiratory droplets" produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Those in close contact with an infected person are more likely to catch it, much like with influenza or colds.

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How close do I have to be to an infected person to get sick? 

While much is still unknown about COVID-19, it's thought to spread like other respiratory illnesses.

"So, just as it does with a cold, people in my family that live in a house with me are more likely to get my cold than someone that is across the BART train from me," Philip explained.

The CDC defines "close contact" as being within approximately six feet of an infected person without protective covering, like a mask.

How can I protect myself?

Like with other illnesses, washing your hands is probably one of the best things you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

"Often the way these are transmitted is inadvertently touching our eyes or mouth, or eating something without having washed our hands and picking up a virus or germ that way," Philip said.

Another thing you can do? Get a flu shot.

While a flu shot won't protect you from COVID-19, they do share similar symptoms. And Philip says getting a flu shot might help reduce any worried feelings you might have.

I've been feeling sick lately — should I be worried? 

First off, stay calm.

If you're feeling sick, you should stay home from work and call your health care provider. Tell them about your symptoms and your travel history, and they'll help you decide what to do from there.

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Some have expressed concerns over visiting Chinatown or spending time among people who identify as Chinese.

Philip said there's no reason to stigmatize or avoid any communities or neighborhoods — and that doing so could make things worse.

"Stigma and discrimination could actually make all San Franciscans less safe, if people who are feeling ill are too worried about the reaction from their fellow San Franciscans to come forward to seek medical care," said Philip.

Should I be concerned about pets or other animals? 

According to the CDC, while the virus may have initially spread through animal contact in China, there is "no reason to think that any animals or pets in the United States might be a source of infection with this new coronavirus."

Are infected people being quarantined in California?

Yes, the locations in California are: Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside and the Marine Corps Air Station in Miramar near San Diego.

Will there be screenings at California airports? 

Some, yes.

On Feb. 2, the Department of Homeland Security announced that "all flights from China and all passengers who have traveled to China within the last 14 days" will be routed through one of 11 airports.

The airports, which include SFO and LAX, can provide enhanced screenings to passengers and can quarantine people as necessary.

Non-stop flights from SFO to and from Wuhan have been canceled since Jan. 22. Additionally, the weekly number of flights to and from China were set to be reduced by about 50% starting Feb. 4, according to SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel.

SFO is not requiring airport employees and passengers to wear masks based on guidance from the CDC and San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"These health experts are telling us that at this point, masks are not necessary, and there's nothing yet to prove that these are required to prevent the spread of coronavirus," Yakel said.

I heard there were issues with the CDC's coronavirus test kits. Is that true? 

Yes, some.

At a press conference on March 12, Gov. Gavin Newsom said California currently has the capacity to run over 8,000 diagnostic tests for COVID-19. But Newson also stressed that not all of the kits sent to the state’s labs are complete.

“The test kits do not include in every case the RNA extraction kits, the reagents, the chemicals, the solutions that are components of the broader test,” Newsom said. “This is imperative that the federal government and labs across the United States, not just the state of California, get the benefit of all the ingredients that are components of the test.”

Newsom made the analogy to purchasing a printer without an ink cartridge.

“I am surprised this is not more of the national conversation. We need to focus in on these tests.”

Newsom said the state is distributing components of the test kits throughout the state’s 18 labs that currently run tests for the virus.

“Some labs have tests, but don’t have the reagents. We’re sending those reagents down to those labs.”

Of the state’s testing capacity, Newsom said: “They are improving, but there are still challenges and we need to own up to that, and we need to be forthright and honest about what those are.”

During a news briefing on Feb. 12, officials with the CDC said some of the coronavirus test kits it sent to states the previous week were producing "inconclusive laboratory results."

"We are working closely with them to correct the issues. And, as we’ve said all along, speed is important but equally or more important in this situation is making sure that the laboratory results are correct," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

There are rumors that someone can be contaminated with this coronavirus by consuming raw or undercooked meat. Is that true? 

Yes and no.

According to the CDC, the outbreak in Wuhan, China, may have been originally linked to some seafood and animal markets. But the majority of the outbreak seems to now be person-to-person transmissions.

As for the U.S.?

"I've not seen any data or statements in the scientific or public health literature to support raw or uncooked meat as a source of novel coronavirus," Philip said.

I heard I should avoid grocery shopping in the first few days of April to make sure that families who get low-income food benefits, like Women, Infants and Children (WIC), have access to the food they need. Is that true?

That's not quite correct. While some families may get their benefits during the first few days of April, others have their benefits staggered throughout the month. CalFresh recipients also have their benefits staggered across the first 10 days of each month.

In order to address concerns about scarcity at stores, officials with the state Department of Public Health said they're working on adding food types and package sizes that were previously unavailable to WIC recipient to address any challenges participants may be having in getting their benefits.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story will continue to be updated.

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