Fact Check: All Coronaviruses Are NOT Just As Harmless As 'The Sniffles' - The New Strains Are Deadly


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Fact Check: All Coronaviruses Are NOT Just As Harmless As 'The Sniffles' - The New Strains Are Deadly Outdated Info

Do all coronaviruses cause symptoms that are no more dangerous than "the sniffles?" No, that's not true: The claim is based on a medical text published in 2003 before the deadlier strains of coronavirus were fully known to medical science. The COVID-19 coronavirus is responsible for one of the most lethal pandemics in living history.

The claim appeared in a Hungarian-language video (archived here) on TikTok on August 18, 2023, under the caption "Coronaviruses in the Medical Microbiology textbook." (All translations by Lead Stories staff). It shows a person leafing through the book and finding a section titled "Coronaviruses." The narrator reads the following excerpt aloud:

'The respiratory-tract infections spread through droplets, most often in the winter months. Coronaviruses cause 15-30 percent of viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. Cross-contamination is widespread among the population, as more than 90 percent of serum samples taken from adults show antibodies against the virus... The illness generally takes a mild course and does not require treatment.'

The narrator then closes the book and says:

What, what is needed to convince you that they're making fools of you? We're talking about the sniffles!

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-08-28 at 8.49.52.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Mon Aug 28 06:49:52 2023 UTC)

The TikTok video conflates "coronaviruses," some of which are relatively harmless, with "COVID-19," a strain that has killed at least 6.9 million people worldwide since scientists first identified it in 2019, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Human coronaviruses are a family of seven pathogens first discovered in the mid-1960s, and COVID-19 is only the most recent instance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The textbook that appears in the video, "Orvosi Mikrobiológia" ("Medical Microbiology"), was published in 2003 before scientists were fully aware of coronaviruses' deadly potential.

In February 2003, scientists identified a coronavirus in China that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), according to the World Health Organization (WHO). By June 2003, SARS had killed 916 people, or about 11 percent of infected patients, according to a study published in Respirology, a medical journal, in November 2003.

In 2012, the coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) emerged in Saudi Arabia. MERS has inflicted an estimated death toll of at least 936, or a case-fatality ratio of 36 percent, according to the WHO.

Since COVID-19 is much more transmissible than the viruses that cause SARS and MERS, its comparatively low death rate -- 0.1 percent to 4.9 percent, according to Johns Hopkins -- translates into a staggeringly higher number of total deaths.

The coronaviruses identified prior to 2003 -- alphacoronaviruses and betacoronaviruses -- generally caused only mild symptoms in humans, according to research published in 2018 by Advances in Virus Research, a book series.

The "sniffles," or the common cold, is not known the be lethal except in rare cases, according to the Cleveland Clinic.


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