7 Common Misconceptions People Have About The 2019-nCoV

The editor group of Caring Pharmacy would like to help answer 7 common misconceptions about this virus outbreak:

1)Is Wuhan virus and 2019-nCoV the same thing?

Yes, it is, but… The Wuhan virus is actually not the official medical name. The official international medical term for this virus is identified as Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).1

2)Everyone needs to wear a facemask, right?

Not necessarily. Dr Benedict Sim (An infectious disease consultant from Hospital Sungai Buloh) says that it is not necessary to wear a face mask now since no human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has occurred in Malaysia. It is, however, necessary to wear a facemask when visiting China, where the epicentre of the outbreak is.2

**This is an interim expert opinion as of 30th Jan 2020. 

3)The MOH of Malaysia is not prepared for this the 2019-nCoV outbreak!

The MOH is well set up. The efforts of MOH are often overlooked. A  few notable steps that I have personally observed are:

  • Publishing guidelines for health care professionals and the public to access online1
  • 26 designated hospitals to handle 2019-nCoV cases. The list includes Hospital Sungai Buloh, Hospital Kuala Lumpur, Hospital Sultanah Aminah Johor Bahru, etc.
  • Flow chart of management of 2019-nCoV in various scenarios such as infection prevention and control, management of close contacts, ambulance transfer protocols, etc.
  • Setting up of screening of travellers and crews arriving from China
  • Constant media press releases by the MOH to keep the public informed

4)The 2019-nCoV infection will definitely result in death, right?

Not true. As of  30.01.2020, there are 7,800 confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV but 170 reported deaths, and the death rate has only occurred within China.3 This suggests a 2% fatality rate. There are also reports of people being initially infected and warded in a hospital setting but they were subsequently discharged.4, 5 Being infected by the 2019-nCoV does not necessarily result in death. 

5)I can take antibiotics for the virus, right?

Not true. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. As 2019-nCoV is a virus, it does not respond to the treatment of antibiotics.  

6)This virus was created in a lab as a biological weapon

Not true. Certain social media posts were caught spreading conspiracy theories such as this. A reputable fact-check website has debunked this misinformation and verified this claim is not true.6

7)Facebook and forwarded WhatsApp messages are useful in this time of the 2019-nCoV outbreak

Be careful what you read and forward. The police arrested four individuals on suspicion of spreading false information via social media.7 

We suggest these useful tips to keep yourself updated about the situation:

  • Rely on official information, i.e. the Ministry of Health (MOH) Malaysia, and World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • Read information available on moh.gov.my or write-ups by Caring Pharmacy
  • Verify information with a healthcare professional, i.e. a doctor or a pharmacist, etc
  • If unsure of a post, be a responsible netizen and do not circulate as it may be false information


  1. Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Garis Panduan. (Web accessed: January 2020). Weblink: http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2269
  2. Coronavirus: No need for face masks at the moment, says expert. The Star Online. News Article. 30.01.2020. Weblink: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/01/30/coronavirus-no-need-for-face-masks-at-the-moment-says-expert
  3. Wuhan virus death toll rises to 170, more than 1,700 new cases. Channel News Asia. News Article 30.01.2020. Weblink: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/wuhan-virus-deaths-hubei-province-toll-12368792
  4. Novel Coronavirus – Japan (ex-China). World Health Organization. (Web accessed January 2020). Weblink: https://www.who.int/csr/don/17-january-2020-novel-coronavirus-japan-ex-china/en/
  5. Coronavirus: China has cured first patient since outbreak. The Star Online. News Article 26.01.2020. Weblink: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2020/01/26/coronavirus-china-have-cured-first-patient-since-outbreak
  6. Claims of Wuhan virus created in a lab, patended and has a vaccine are bogus. The Star Online. News Article. 26.01.2020. Weblink: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/01/26/claims-of-wuhan-virus-created-in-a-lab-patented-and-has-a-vaccine-are-bogus 
  7. Malaysia arrests 4 more people for spreading false information about Wuhan virus. Channel News Asia. News article 30.01.2020. Weblink: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/wuhan-virus-malaysia-fake-news-arrests-12369880