Shifu Ismail N, Cameroonian senior medical student and health advocate puts up an excellent write-up to decode some myths around the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). He writes,

“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 coronavirus 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:

A) MISCONCEPTIONS about the disease; COVID-19

1) Coronavirus(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 its existence and die of negligence and stubbornness (sorry for using this word).

2) Africans especially blacks are immune to Coronavirus: 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 its low prevalence in Africa is because people travel less into the African countries. Africans instead travel out to seek for greener pastures. Most people travel around the world for tourism and economic activities. You and I can bear 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)Coronavirus cannot survive in hot areas: A lot of misconceptions have been circulating that the novel coronavirus cannot survive in hot climates like in tropical Africa. A 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. In fact, several cases of death have also been reported in the 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.
The panicking is unnecessary, let’s get the facts and join hands to fight the most dreaded pandemic in modern times”
To be continued…
Shifu Ismail N ( Senior medical student and Health Advocate.)


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