By Joline El-Chakhtoura, PhD, PhD, MS
(Links by Travel Jedi)
A lot of misinformation has been circulating via the internet and social media concerning the novel coronavirus, to the extent that the World Health Organization stated that we are fighting an infodemic in parallel with this pandemic. Here are some of those ‘myths’:
1) Hot fluids/ hot baths/ hair dryers/ UV/ sun can protect me from this virus
FALSE: Although research on this virus is still scant, temperatures of ~60+ C generally kill viruses, which our skin cannot tolerate. And heat will not change our body temperature (~37 C).
This virus seems to have a short infection period (will quickly enter your body after it’s inhaled). Hair dryers can actually damage mucus membranes meant to protect you from infections.
Also, if the virus recedes in the summer, it can still spread again in the fall as vaccines will take at least 12 months. To this date, no drugs (including chloroquine) have been approved yet.
2) Saltwater/ arak-vodka/ vitamin C/ glutamine/ antibiotics can protect me from this virus
FALSE: Saltwater or saline can relieve symptoms like a sore throat or stuffy nose but do not kill the virus. Arak, vodka etc. are not concentrated enough to be used as disinfectants.
There isn’t enough evidence that supplements can boost your immunity, especially over a short period of time. Antibiotics target bacteria not viruses. You may be given antibiotics if infected because bacterial co-infection is possible.
3) Chinese tea/ holy water/ holy soil can protect me from the virus
FALSE: Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) BEFORE touching your face or mask (and after removing your mask), combined with SOCIAL DISTANCING (2 meters), can protect you from the virus.
4) COVID-19 is in fact a toxic gas… A bioweapon… Predicted in novels…
FALSE: Gases don’t have genetic material and cannot test positive on virus tests. There is no evidence of the virus being created in a lab. And nobody can predict such events. Only certain trends or patterns can be estimated by mathematical modelling or risk factor analysis.
5) Another pandemic will occur in 100 years
FALSE: The dates in this ‘viral’ video are not accurate and even if they were, this would be coincidental. Outbreaks can occur anytime, anywhere, and CERTAINLY not limited to China or Africa.
6) Stocking up on masks, gloves, disinfectants and toilet paper is helpful during this pandemic
FALSE: Depriving others, especially healthcare workers, of these items will in turn put YOU and your family at risk. Buy SMALL QUANTITIES only.
We are still not certain whether this virus is airborne so do wear a (medical) mask when surrounded by people in e.g. a supermarket and maintain a distance of 2 meters.
I don’t recommend wearing gloves as they give a false sense of security. Simply don’t touch your face/mask with unwashed hands.
7) I have mild symptoms so should I go to the ER? I think I was with an infected person so should I get tested?
In such cases you should self-quarantine i.e. stay in one room alone (don’t turn on central AC) and have someone deliver food to your door.
Call your physician BEFORE heading to the hospital, and even when you feel better, as you may still be contagious for a few weeks after recovering. Ask your physician how to proceed if you share a bathroom, how to wash your clothes etc.
8) I am staying home so can I visit my neighbor? There are no cases in my town so can I hang out with a few friends in the neighborhood?
You can never be certain if someone is infected or not. S/he may develop symptoms 14 days after exposure, or show no symptoms, and still be contagious. Young or old, rich or poor, nobody is immune.
The numbers are inaccurate and are almost always MUCH higher than reported due to a. under-testing and b. asymptomatic people (positive but have no symptoms).
9) Will the virus be contained soon similar to the situation in China, Singapore, Taiwan…?
Most nations, unfortunately, were not prepared for pandemics, did not implement lockdowns early enough, do not have enough hospital beds/equipment, nor virus test reagents.
To contain the virus everyone needs to adopt strict hygiene practices + social distancing. Stay at home. Think of all the sick people dying alone in hospitals and be grateful.
YOUR behavior will determine the trajectory of this disease. If you do follow guidelines then you have no reason to panic.
10) Bats/microbes/animals are to blame for this pandemic
FALSE: Humans are to blame. Abusing any animal by destroying its natural habitat, exploiting it for trade, entertainment, food, hunting, fur etc. raises its stress levels and allows infections to increase and shed (zoonotic spillover– virus host shifts from animal to human).
With globalization infectious diseases will certainly continue to emerge if humans keep disrupting ecosystems.
It is important to only share information from credible sources such as scientists, physicians, W.H.O, health, research, and academic institutes. Think twice before clicking like or share. Follow the science.