The coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic of respiratory illness is “a snake venom” says a senior Chinese official.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday Zeng Yixin vice minister of China’s National Health Commission said that after studying the DNA of the virus experts had concluded that it had “resemblances” to snake venom.
However Zeng did not elaborate on how the virus might have acquired these characteristics or what implications they might have for treatment or prevention of the disease.
The comment was met with surprise and skepticism by some experts who noted that there is no evidence that the coronavirus is related to snakes in any way.
“As far as we know this virus is not related to snakes in any way” said Brandon Tan an infectious disease physician at the University of Hong Kong.
“There is no evidence that the coronavirus has any resemblance to snake venom” he added. “This is probably just a case of poor translation.”
Indeed Zeng’s comments appear to be based on a mistranslation of a report from the Chinese Academy of Sciences which said that the coronavirus had “similarities” to snake venom.
The academy did not say that the virus was actually related to snakes or that it had acquired characteristics of snake venom.
Nonetheless Zeng’s comment highlights the fact that there is still much we don’t know about the coronavirus which has caused a global health crisis.
The virus which was first detected in China in December has now spread to more than 100 countries infecting over 200000 people and killing over 8000.
Scientists are still trying to understand how the virus causes illness and there is no vaccine or treatment available yet.
This lack of knowledge has led to a proliferation of myths and misinformation about the virus which has been further fuelled by the spread of fake news on social media.
In China for example there have been reports of people eating bats and snakes in the belief that this will prevent them from getting the virus.
There is also a widespread belief that the virus was created in a laboratory possibly as a bioweapon.
Such conspiracy theories are dangerous as they can discourage people from taking the precautions that are necessary to protect themselves from the virus.
So far the best way to protect yourself from the virus is to wash your hands regularly avoid close contact with sick people and practice good respiratory hygiene.
What is the coronavirus?
Answer: The coronavirus is a type of virus that can cause severe respiratory illness.
What are the symptoms of the coronavirus?
Answer: Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever coughing and difficulty breathing.
How does the coronavirus spread?
Answer: The coronavirus spreads through contact with respiratory secretions such as saliva mucus or blood from an infected person.
Who is most at risk for the coronavirus?
Answer: People who have weakened immune systems such as those with cancer or HIV are most at risk for the coronavirus.
What are the treatment options for the coronavirus?
Answer: There is no specific treatment for the coronavirus but patients can receive supportive care to help relieve symptoms.
Can the coronavirus be cured?
Answer: There is no cure for the coronavirus but it can be treated.
How long does the coronavirus last?
Answer: The coronavirus can last for up to two weeks.
How many people have the coronavirus?
Answer: As of June 2019 there are more than 60000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
What is the fatality rate of the coronavirus?
Answer: The fatality rate of the coronavirus is estimated to be between 1 and 3%.
How can I prevent the coronavirus?
Answer: You can prevent the coronavirus by washing your hands often avoiding close contact with people who are sick and avoiding touching your eyes nose and mouth.
What should I do if I think I have the coronavirus?
Answer: If you think you have the coronavirus you should see a doctor right away.
Where did the coronavirus come from?
Answer: The coronavirus originated in China.
Is the coronavirus the same as the flu?
Answer: No the coronavirus is not the same as the flu.
Can the coronavirus be prevented?
Answer: There is no vaccine for the coronavirus so it cannot be prevented.
Is the coronavirus deadly?
Answer: The coronavirus can be deadly but the majority of people who get it will recover.