With any health care crisis, it’s sometimes difficult to separate the truth about what’s causing the crisis from the myths and conspiracies that are spread by misinformation. Here’s a rundown of some of the myths, and the medical facts as they are known today. This list was compiled by the newsletter Medical News Today:
The novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, has spread from Wuhan, China, to every continent on Earth except Antarctica. COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the coronavirus.
1. Myth: Spraying chlorine or alcohol on skin kills viruses in the body.
Response: 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.
2. Myth: Only older adults and young people are at risk.
Response: 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.
3. Myth: Children cannot catch COVID-19.
Response: 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.
4. Myth: COVID-19 is just like the flu.
Response: SARS-CoV-2 causes illness that does, indeed, have flu-like symptoms, such as aches, fever and cough. Similarly, both COVID-19 and 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.
According to the World Health Organization the mortality of seasonal flu is 0.1%.
5. Myth: Everyone with COVID-19 dies.
Response: 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 — the vast majority — were mild.
6. Myth: Cats and dogs spread coronavirus.
Response: Currently, there is little evidence that SARS-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 has been 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.”
7. Myth: Facemasks protect against coronavirus.
Response: Healthcare workers use professional facemasks, which fit tightly around the face, to protect them against infection. However, disposable facemasks are unlikely to provide such protection. As these masks do not fit neatly against the face, droplets can still enter the mouth and nose. Also, tiny viral particles can penetrate directly through the material.
However, if someone has a respiratory illness, wearing a mask can help protect others from becoming infected.
“There is very little evidence that wearing such masks protects the wearer from infection,” Dr. Ben Killingley, Consultant in Acute Medicine and Infectious Diseases at University College London Hospital in the U.K., explains. “Furthermore, wearing masks can give a false sense of reassurance and might lead to other infection control practices being ignored, e.g., hand hygiene.”
The WHO recommends that people who are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 should wear a mask. In these cases, wearing a mask is only effective if the individual regularly washes their hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Also, when using a mask, it is important to use it and dispose of it properly.
8. Myth: Hand dryers kill coronavirus.
Response: 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.
9. Myth: You have to be with someone for 10 minutes to catch the virus.
Response: 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.
10. Myth: Rinsing the nose with saline protects against coronavirus.
Response: 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.
11. Myth: Antibiotics kill coronavirus.
Response: Antibiotics only kill bacteria; they do not kill viruses.
12. Myth: Home remedies can cure and protect against COVID-19.
Response: No home remedies can protect against COVID-19, including vitamin C, essential oils, silver colloid, sesame oil, garlic, and sipping water every 15 minutes. The best approach is to adopt a good hand-washing regimen and to avoid large groups of people, some of whom may be contagious.
13. Myth: The virus will die off when temperatures rise in the spring.
Response: 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.
14. Myth: Coronavirus is the deadliest virus known to man.
Response: Although SARS-CoV-2 does appear to be far more serious than influenza, it is not the deadliest virus that people have faced. Others, such as Ebola, have higher mortality rates.