WHO sets the record straight on common coronavirus misconception

Brooke Rolfe
·News Reporter
·3-min read

The World Health Organisation has set the record straight about a common misconception people have when it comes to coronavirus and how it is most commonly spread.

Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, speaking at a WHO media briefing explained that a respiratory disease like COVID-19 spreading during the winter was not necessarily due to cold weather.

Instead, it was more likely to be transmitted widely in winter as a result of many people coming together in enclosed spaces, Dr Ryan said.

“Respiratory diseases can spread efficiently in winter not necessarily because of the temperature but because human beings come together in closed environments and therefore transmission is more facilitated,” he explained.

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“We've seen COVID-19 now in a number of different climates.”

He referenced the rapid spread of the virus in Singapore, where it is typically hot and humid, to illustrate how temperature was not a factor consistent with more cases of the condition.

Influenza on the other hand, is most common in winter which Harvard University researchers believe may be because the virus is happier in cold, dry weather and thus better able to invade the body.

Australian health care workers copping abuse

The message comes as doctors and nurses in Australia call for clearer messages from the federal government to curb increasing abuse being faced by frontline health care workers.

Dr Mike Ryan speaking at a WHO media briefing. Source: Instagram/who
Dr Mike Ryan said people gathering in close indoor environments contributed to spreading the virus . Source: Instagram/who

The former head of the Australian Medical Association Mukesh Haikerwal's Melbourne clinic is refusing to test people who don't meet the criteria.

Current criteria includes people who have travelled internationally in the 14 days before showing symptoms, or who have come in close or casual contact in the 14 days before the onset of symptoms with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

The two other clinical criteria required before testing will be done is signs of a fever or acute respiratory infection, including shortness of breath, cough or sore throat.

The latest Australian coronavirus figures accurate as of 3pm Tuesday March 17. Source: Yahoo News Australia
The latest Australian coronavirus figures accurate as of 3pm Tuesday March 17. Source: Yahoo News Australia

Dr Haikerwal told AAP he had refused one patient because they didn't meet the criteria, only for the patient to call back saying they were told by a government health hotline they should be tested.

“It's a complete disaster,” Dr Haikerwal said.

“There is conflicting advice one agency to the other, one state to the other, one minute to the next.”

Dr Haikerwal said there needed to be one national source of advice, with a flowchart dictating when people needed to be tested.

WHO says it may not be cold weather that facilitates the spread of coronavirus. Source: Getty Images
WHO says it may not be cold weather that facilitates the spread of coronavirus. Source: Getty Images

He said health care workers always faced abuse at clinics, but it was even worse now as people demanded to be tested.

"Not everybody with a sniffly nose needs to go off and have a COVID-19 test," Dr Haikerwal said.

‘No regrets’

On Tuesday a NSW stimulus package to the tune of $2.3 billion was announced as part of a “a no-regrets policy” being pursued by the government.

The number of confirmed cased of COVID-19 in NSW almost doubled over the weekend and on Tuesday morning reached 210.

Five people around Australia have now died of the virus, with authorities confirming the deaths of two women aged 77 and 90 on Sunday.

With AAP

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