The Wuhan Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has taken the world by storm. Originally established to have originated from exotic meat consumption at a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of Central China’s Hubei province, it had spread like wildfire, infecting currently 1,287 and causing 42 deaths at the time of writing.
The fast pace of the progress of the novel coronavirus makes it particularly susceptible to misinformation, spread in a virulent manner especially on public online forums and on social media.
In Singapore, official government statements have been released on a regular basis to address these instances of factually inaccurate reports circulating since the start of the Wuhan Coronavirus. These have included fake messages notifying the public to avoid public hospitals, rumours that travellers from Wuhan have been denied entry to Singapore, and that an individual had died following an infection in a local shopping mall.
Inaccurate information can be especially harmful when causing undue panic and threatens social stability.
To address this growing concern of fake news in the connected world internationally, the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE), based in Maryland in the United States, has created a web-based interface. This platform aggregates data from official sources including the World Health Organisation (WHO), the American Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the National Health Commission of the PRC (NHC) and Chinese healthcare information sharing website Dingxiangyuan.
There are still concerns about the completeness of reported Wuhan Coronavirus cases by some governmental agencies, but this online tool will alleviate misinformation with official reported statistics.
What is 2019-nCoV?
Although the WHO has avoided the characterisation of the coronavirus as a “global emergency”, its rapid spread and the high fatality rate is something to be considered.
As a coronavirus, it has been likened to SARS, an epidemic that started in 2002 and resulted in about 8,000 cases and 774 deaths. In 2012, the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was also caused by a coronavirus that similarly “jumped species” and spread through human-to-human contact.
The 2019-nCoV began in China in early December, and presents with symptoms like cough and fever, after an incubation period of 2-14 days. To date, despite 54 reported recoveries, there have been no specific treatments, only symptomatic treatments. It has a fatality rate of around 3%, although the figure continues to change. For reference, the SARS epidemic had a fatality rate of around 10%.
Singapore has since quarantined 66 people and confirmed four cases of Wuhan coronavirus infection over the Lunar New Year weekend.
How do I protect myself?
Frequent hand-washing and proper mask-wearing will prevent pathogens from being transmitted and coming into contact with individuals.
Thorough hand-washing with soap should be observed prior to eating and handling food, after using the toilet, and after sneezing or coughing. It might be prudent to utilise paper towels with some studies showing that hand dryers in public toilets can harbour high amounts of pathogens.
Regular surgical masks should be worn in place of N95 masks and other cloth-based masks. It should be pulled to cover the nose, mouth and chin, with the wire at the top pressed to form a seal around the bridge of the nose. The surgical mask should be worn with its coloured surface facing outwards.