AS the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to sweep across the globes, the myths are beginning to spread too.
Popular apps and social media platforms in China have become swamped with rumours, hoaxes and unverified information about the virus.
But conspiracy theories about the escalating coronavirus, which has now killed 170 people, are making work for the authorities even harder.
In an attempt to clampdown on myths, police in Wuhan – where the outbreak started – have reportedly arrested eight people for “spreading rumours”.
There are also unconfirmed reports that up to 40 people have been investigated for similar charges across the country.
Here are some of the questions officials have been up against…
1. Can you catch coronavirus if you’ve never been to China?
The first cases of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus in those who hadn’t visited crisis-hit China were confirmed earlier this week.
Vietnam was the first country to report a case, according to the World Health Organisation.
A man who was in contact with his sick father, who had recently returned from Wuhan, tested positive for the bug at the weekend.
In Japan, a taxi driver in his 60s, who was driving tourists from Wuhan,was taken to hospital with pneumonia and quickly diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
Meanwhile, a 33-year-old in Germany was infected by a Chinese colleague who was visiting his workplace – an auto parts supplier in Stockdorf, Munich.
Taiwan also reported its first case of domestic transmission after a woman who had returned from working in China infected her husband, who is in his 50s.
She was later diagnosed with coronavirus while he remains in a stable condition, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre said.
2. Can you die from coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while others – like the one that caused Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) – are far more severe.
The common early signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties, according to WHO.
But in some people the infection can cause them to develop pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome or kidney failure.
These conditions are life-threatening and were the reason the majority of victims so far have died.
3. Do face masks prevent infection?
Chinese authorities have encouraged people to wear surgical masks to help stop the spread of the new virus.
But some infectious disease experts say that there’s little high-quality scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of them outside of a clinical setting.
Dr Julie Vaishampayan, chairwoman of the public health committee for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, says that surgical masks are really “the last line of defence.”
She warned that as they aren’t fitted or sealed, the masks can leave gaps around the mouth “so you’re not filtering out all the air that comes in”.
She told the NY Times: “We worry about people feeling they’re getting more protection from the mask than they really are.
“Washing your hands and avoiding people who are ill is way more important than wearing a mask.”
However, infectious disease doctor Dr Amesh Adalja, from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says that they do block most large respiratory droplets from other people’s sneezes and coughs.
He added that the biggest problem though is people not using the masks properly.
Dr Adalja pointed out that if people put their hand underneath their mask to scratch or rub their nose, they are allowing themselves to come into contact with contaminants.
4. Is there a cure for coronavirus?
There is no cure for coronavirus – but experts are frantically working on a vaccine.
Scientists in Hong Kong believe they have developed a vaccine – but say it could be at least a year before its available.
Announcing his team’s success, Yuen Kwok-yung, from the University of Hong Kong, told The Times it would take months to test the vaccine on animals before even trialling it on humans.
The global research community has stepped up its efforts to halt the epidemic, with scientists responding to the outbreak at unprecedented speed.
Teams around the world are working on their own vaccines, a process that typically takes at least a decade.
Researchers in Australia revealed they had successfully synthesised the virus in the laboratory, using a sample from an infected patient.
5. Did coronavirus start in bats?
The coronavirus found in bats is nearly identical to that found in humans, Chinese scientists have said.
New research reportedly shows there is an up to 96 per cent uniformity, which appears to confirm the suspicion that bats were the cause of the outbreak.
Since the outbreak began, footage and images have been circulated purporting to show people eating the Chinese delicacy.
Now, research carried out by Wuhan Institute of Virology has found the coronavirus found in bats and humans are nearly identical, the official Xinhua news agency reports.
Bat soup is reported to be an unusual but popular dish particularly in Wuhan.
Previous deadly outbreaks of SARS and Ebola were also believed to have originated in the flying mammal.
Earlier research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai first raised the possibility bats could be the source.
6. Can bleach cure coronavirus?
Far-right conspiracy theorists have claimed that drinking bleach can help cure the killer coronavirus.
The cleaning liquid has been dubbed, “Miracle Mineral Solution” or “MMS”, and has also promoted by the bonkers group as a miracle cure for autism and AIDS.
Experts have long warned people to not consume MMS and that it is dangerous because of the toxic chemicals in the industrial-grade bleach.
Drinking itcan cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and life-threatening low blood pressure due to dehydration.
Sodium chlorite, the main ingredient of MMS, can also cause acute kidney failure if ingested.
The Food and Drug Administration in US has repeatedly warned consumers not to drink MMS and last year said it was effectively a “dangerous bleach” that could cause “severe vomiting” and “acute liver failure”.