MYTH: The coronavirus is new.
FACTS: While this strain of virus — 2019-nCoV — is new, it comes from an ancient family of coronaviruses that were first identified in the 1960s. Their name comes from the crown-like projections on their surface and is derived from “corona,” the Latin term for “halo,” or “crown.”
MYTH: Snakes are responsible for 2019-nCoV.
FACTS: With the discovery of the 2019 coronavirus, we now know there are seven strains that can infect humans. But with more than 200 other coronaviruses infecting various members of the animal kingdom, it’s tough to pinpoint which species is responsible for 2019-nCoV’s jump to humans. A study published in the Journal of Medical Virology on January 22 suggested that 2019-nCoV may have come from snakes, but it was later refuted.
Researchers now suspect that the Chinese horseshoe bat could be the culprit, with two studies published in the last week announcing that the genome of the new human virus is 96% identical to that of a bat coronavirus. Bats have been implicated in the spread of several deadly viruses among humans, including Ebola, rabies, SARS and MERS. In fact, a paper published last year by scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology suggested “bat-borne CoVs (coronaviruses) will re-emerge to cause the next disease outbreak.” But it’s too early to say for sure whether the Wuhan coronavirus originated in bats or if an intermediary animal played a role in transferring the virus to people.
MYTH: Bat soup eaters deserve blame for the spread of the new coronavirus.
FACTS: When a video shared on TikTok showed a Chinese woman chowing down a bowl of bat soup went viral, it sparked outrage online about whether Asian diets are to blame for the 2019-nCoV jump to humans. Wang Mengyun, the Chinese internet vlogger who filmed herself in 2016 eating bat soup in Palau, ended up apologizing for the video and defending herself against death threats. Mengyun clarified in her apology that she ate a fruit bat in the video, which is a local delicacy in Palau. Other kinds of bats are popular in African, Asian and other Pacific Rim countries and cultures, including Guam.
MYTH: Pets can transmit the 2019-nCoV.
FACTS: Dogs and cats are both prone to coronavirus infections. But they’re different viruses than ours. And neither variety can be transmitted to humans. There have been no reported cases of pets getting the human virus and no cases of people giving the human virus to their pets.