As the novel coronavirus continues to infect people around the world, news articles and social media posts about the outbreak continue to spread online. Unfortunately,this relentless flood of information can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction and during a viral outbreak; rumors and misinformation can be dangerous.
The novel coronavirus which is now known asSARS-CoV-2 has spread from Wuhan, China, to every continent on Earth except Antarctica.
Moreover, The World Health Organization (WHO)officially changed their classification of the situation from a public health emergency of international concern to a pandemic on March 11.
To date, the novel coronavirus currently dubbed“severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” or SARS-CoV-2 for short has been responsible for more than 245,000 infections globally, causing more than10,000 deaths. In the U.S., the virus has affected 14,250 people and has so far caused 205 deaths.
As ever, when the word “pandemic” starts appearing in headlines, people become fearful, and with fear come misinformation and rumors.
Here, we will dissect some of the most common myths that are currently circulating on social media and beyond.
Myth-1: Face masks can protect you from the virus
Standard surgical masks cannot protect you fromSARS-CoV-2, as they are not designed to block out viral particles and do not lay flush to the face. That said, surgical masks can help prevent infected people from spreading the virus further by blocking any respiratory droplets that could be expelled from their mouths.
Within health care facilities, special respirators called "N95 respirators" have been shown to greatly reduce the spread of the virus among medical staff. People require training to properly fit N95 respirators around their noses, cheeks and chins to ensure that no air can sneak around the edges of the mask; and wearers must also learn to check the equipment for damage after each use.
Myth-2: Spraying chlorine or alcohol on skin kills viruses in the body
Applying alcohol or chlorine to the body can cause harm, especially if it enters the eyes or mouth. Although people can use these chemicals to disinfect surfaces, they should not use them on skin.
These products cannot kill viruses within the body.
Myth-3: Only older adults and young people are at risk
SARS-CoV-2, like other coronaviruses, can infect people of any age. However, older adults or individuals with preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, are more likely to become severely ill.
Myth-4: Children cannot catch COVID-19
All age groups can become infected. Most cases,so far, have been in adults, but children are not immune. In fact, preliminary evidence shows that children are just as likely to become infected, but their symptoms tend to be less severe.
Myth-5: Lockdowns or school closures won't happen in the US
There's no guarantee, but school closures are a common tool that public health officials use to slow or halt the spread of contagious diseases. For instance, during the swine flu pandemic of 2009, 1,300schools in the U.S. closed to reduce the spread of the disease, according to a2017 study of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. At the time, CDC guidance recommended that schools close for between 7 and 14 days, according to the study.
While the coronavirus is a different disease,with a different incubation period, transmissibility and symptom severity, it's likely that at least some school closures will occur. If we later learn that children are not the primary vectors for disease, that strategy may change, Dr.Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. Either way, you should prepare for the possibility of school closures and figure out backup care if needed.
Lock downs, quarantines and isolation are also a possibility. Under section 361 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S. Code §264), the federal government is allowed to take such actions to quell the spread of disease from either outside the country or between states. State and local governments may also have
Myth-6: Isolation and quarantine mean the same thing
The two terms are interchangeable, right? Wrong.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the term isolation refers to the separation of a person or group of people who are reasonably believed to be infected and could potentially infect people.
The term quarantine refers to the separation of a person or group of people who are reasonably believed to have been exposed but are not yet symptomatic and may not have the virus.
Myth-7: COVID-19 is just like the flu
SARS-CoV-2 causes illness that does, indeed, have flu-like symptoms, such as aches, fever, and cough. Similarly, both COVID-19and flu can be mild, severe, or, in rare cases, fatal. Both can also lead to pneumonia.
However, the overall profile of COVID-19 is more serious. Estimates vary, but its mortality rate seems to be between about 1%and 3%.
Although scientists are working out the exact mortality rate, it is likely to be many times higher than that of seasonal flu.
Myth-8: Vitamin C supplements will stop you from catching COVID-19
Researcher shave yet to find any evidence that vitamin C supplements can render people immune to COVID-19 infection. In fact, for most people, taking extra vitamin C does not even ward off the common cold, though it may shorten the duration of a cold if you catch one.
That said, vitamin C serves essential roles in the human body and supports normal immune function. As an antioxidant, the vitamin neutralizes charged particles called free radicals that can damage tissues in the body. It also helps the body synthesize hormones, build collagen and seal off vulnerable connective tissue against pathogens.
So yes, vitamin C should absolutely be included in your daily diet if you want to maintain a healthy immune system. But mega dosing on supplements is unlikely to lower your risk of catching COVID-19, and may at most give you a"modest" advantage against the virus, should you become infected. No evidence suggests that other so-called immune-boosting supplements such as zinc, green tea or echinacea help to prevent COVID-19, either.
Be wary of products being advertised as treatments or cures for the new coronavirus. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in the United States, the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have already issued warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent products that promise to cure, treat or prevent the viral infection.
Myth-9: If you are sick, go to the doctor first
If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or you have symptoms, the CDC recommends using a telehealth service or calling your health care provider first. According to the CDC, once you speak to a health care provider, be sure to provide information about any symptoms you might have and let them know you think you have COVID-19.
Global Rescue Total Care members have immediate access to board-certified,licensed doctors for real-time video consultations and treatment.
After speaking with a health care provider, they will be able to advise you on the best course of action to get you the care you need. Calling ahead also gives your health care provider the ability to take steps to ensure other patients are not at risk for getting infected or exposed.
Myth-10: Everyone with COVID-19 dies
This statement is untrue. As we have mentioned above, COVID-19 is only fatal for a small percentage of people.
In a recent report, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 80.9% of COVID-19 cases were mild.
The WHO also reports that around 80% of people will experience a relatively mild form of the disease, which will not require specialist treatment in a hospital.
Mild symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness, and shortness of breath.
Myth-11: Cats and dogs spread coronavirus
Currently, there is little evidence thatSARS-CoV-2 can infect cats and dogs. However, in Hong Kong, a Pomeranian whose owner had COVID-19 became infected. The dog did not display any symptoms.
Scientists are debating the importance of this case to the epidemic. For instance, Prof. Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, says:
“We have to differentiate between real infection and just detecting the presence of the virus. I still think it’s questionable how relevant it is to the human outbreak, as most of the global outbreak hasbeen driven by human-to-human transmission.”
He continues: “We need to find out more, but we don’t need to panic I doubt it could spread to another dog or a human because of the low levels of the virus. The real driver of the outbreak is humans.”
Myth-12: Hand dryers kill coronavirus
Hand dryers do not kill coronavirus. The best way to protect yourself and others from the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
Myth-13: SARS-CoV-2 is just a mutated form of the common cold
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, all of which have spiky proteins on their surface. Some of these viruses use humans as their primary host and cause the common cold. Other coronaviruses, such asSARS-CoV-2, primarily infect animals.
Both Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) began in animals and passed into humans.
Myth-14: You have to be with someone for 10 minutes to catch the virus
The longer someone is with an infected person,the more likely they are to catch the virus, but it is still possible to catch it in less than 10 minutes.
Myth-15: Rinsing the nose with saline protects against coronavirus
There is no evidence that a saline nose rinse protects against respiratory infections. Some research suggests that this technique might reduce the symptoms of acute upper respiratory tract infections, but scientists have not found that it can reduce the risk of infection.
Myth-16: You can protect yourself by gargling bleach
There are no circumstances in which gargling bleach might benefit your health. Bleach is corrosive and can cause serious damage.
Myth-17: Antibiotics can kill coronavirus
Antibiotics only kill bacteria; they do not kill viruses.There is no medicine invented to kill coronavirus yet.
Antibiotics are effective for treating bacteria,not viruses. COVID-19 is a virus, which comes from the same family of viruses that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Both the CDC and a recent PubMed publication state there is no specific antiviral treatment recommended forCOVID-19 and no vaccine is currently available.
Myth-18: Thermal scanners can diagnose coronavirus
Thermal scanners can detect whether someone has a fever. However, other conditions, such as seasonal flu, can also produce fever.
In addition, symptoms of COVID-19 can appear 2–10days after infection, which means that someone infected with the virus could have a normal temperature for a few days before a fever begins.
Myth-19: Garlic, black cumin and ginger protects against coronaviruses
Some research suggests that garlic might slow the growth of some species of bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and there is no evidence that garlic can protect people against COVID-19.
Myth-20: Parcels from China can spread coronavirus
From previous research into similar coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS and are similar toSARS-CoV-2, scientists believe that the virus cannot survive on letters or packages for an extended time.
The CDC explain that “because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures.”
Myth-21: Home remedies can cure and protect against COVID-19
No home remedies can protect against COVID-19,including vitamin C, essential oils, silver colloid, sesame oil, garlic, fish tank cleaner, and sipping water every 15 minutes.
The best approach is to adopt a good hand washing regimen and to avoid places where there may be unwell people.
Myth-22: You can catch coronavirus from eating Chinese food in the U.S.
No, you cannot. There is no evident found on this.By that logic, you'd also have to avoid Italian, Korean, Japanese and Iranian restaurants, given that those countries have also been facing an outbreak. The new coronavirus doesn't just affect people of Chinese descent.
Myth-23: You can catch coronavirus from urine and feces
It is unlikely that this is true, but the jury is currently out. According to Prof. John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the U.K.:
“It isn’t a very pleasant thought, but every time you swallow, you swallow mucus from your upper respiratory tract. In fact, this is an important defensive mechanism. This sweeps viruses and bacteria down into our gut where they are denatured in the acid conditions of our stomachs.”
“With modern, very highly sensitive detection mechanisms, we can detect these viruses in feces. Usually, viruses we can detect in this way are not infectious to others, as they have been destroyed byour guts.”
However, it is worth noting that some research concludes that viruses, which are similar to SARS-CoV-2, might persist in feces. A recent research letter in JAMA also concludes that SARS-CoV-2is present in feces.
Myth-24: The virus will die off when temperatures rise in the spring
Some viruses, such as cold and flu viruses, do spread more easily in the colder months, but that does not mean that they stop entirely when conditions become milder. As it stands, scientists do not know how temperature changes will influence the behavior of SARS-CoV-2.
Myth-25: Coronavirus is the deadliest virus known to man
Although SARS-CoV-2 does appear to be more serious than influenza, it is not the deadliest virus that people have faced.Others, such as Ebola, have higher mortality rates.
Myth-26: Flu and pneumonia vaccines protect against COVID-19
As SARS-CoV-2 is different than other viruses, no existing vaccines protect against infection.
Myth-27: The virus originated in a laboratory in China
Despite the swathes of internet rumors, there is no evidence that this is the case. In fact, a recent study demonstrates that the virus is a natural product of evolution.
Some researchers believe that SARS-CoV-2 may have jumped from pangolins to humans. Others think that it might have passed to us from bats, which was the case for SARS.
Myth-28: The outbreak began because people ate bat soup
Although scientists are confident that the virus started in animals, there is no evidence that it came from soup of any kind.
What should we do to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus ?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend these simple measures to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2 :
- avoid close contact with people who seem sick
- try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth
- stay at home if you are sick
- sneeze into a tissue, then throw it in the trash
- if there are no tissues to hand, sneeze into the crook of your elbow
- use standard cleaning sprays and wipes to disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
- wash your hands with soap regularly for 20 seconds
Unless you are a health worker or are caring for someone who is sick, the CDC do not recommend wearing face masks. The tips above might seem simplistic, but during an epidemic, these are the best ways to make a difference.