There is really only one news story dominating the headlines right now – the Covid-19 pandemic that is currently sweeping across the globe
As the novel coronavirus continues to dominate our social media feeds, television and newspapers, a whole host of myths and half-truths has started to make the rounds.
While myths and ‘fake news’ posts are commonplace on Facebook and Twitter at the best of times, in times of crisis and pandemic they can be downright deadly.
False medical advice can put people in harm’s way, and fake stories about the origin and spread of the virus can stoke ugly racism aimed at Chinese people.
We want to share some of the most common myths about coronavirus to ensure that you aren’t duped by false information.
Here are 20 of the most common coronavirus myths – busted.
Only older adults are at risk of serious illness or death
FALSE – like any coronavirus, COVID-19 can infect people of any ages. Thus far, older adults and people with preexisting health conditions (including asthma and cancer) are more likely to get seriously ill, but that doesn’t mean that younger adults are in the clear. As each day passes, more and more younger people are ending up in the hospital, and even dying.
FALSE – Children can indeed catch COVID-19, but they appear to display milder symptoms. That said, they can and do transmit the virus to people around them, potentially sickening older adults.
FALSE – COVID-19 is not a form of the flu, though it does have some of the same symptoms of the influenza virus, including aches, fever, and cough. Flu and COVID-19 can also both lead to pneumonia.
That said, COVID-19 is much more serious, as it appears to have a mortality rate of between 1% and 3%, compared with .01% for the seasonal flu. You do the maths – this amounts to far more deaths across the population. It is also important to point out that there is no such thing as ‘just’ a flu – flu is a serious illness that kills tens of thousands of people each year in the UK alone.
FALSE – Despite the fact that early news reports seemed to show that a Pomeranian in Hong Kong had tested ‘weak positive’ for COVID-19, there is little to no evidence that it can actually infect dogs and cats.
Prof. Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom, has the following to say:
“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. 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.”
FALSE – While healthcare workers use professional face masks that fit tightly around their noses and mouths, disposable face masks do not provide the same level of protection. Since they do not fit tightly to the face, droplets can still enter your nose and mouth.
That said, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should wear a mask to prevent others from becoming infected. Dr. Ben Killingley, Consultant in Acute Medicine and Infectious Diseases at University College London Hospital, explains.
“There is very little evidence that wearing such masks protects the wearer from infection. Furthermore, wearing masks can give a false sense of reassurance and might lead to other infection control practices being ignored, e.g., hand hygiene.”
Instead of relying on a mask to protect you, you should focus on hand hygiene and staying in your home unless you need to venture out for essential work or supplies.
FALSE – Videos have been making the rounds that a blast up your nose with a hair dryer or hand dryer can heat up and kill the coronavirus. This is not true – the best way to kill the virus and prevent its spread is to wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
FALSE – You might see posts that advise that you should rinse your nose with saline to protect yourself from coronavirus. Don’t fall for it – a saline nose rinse will not stop you from catching COVID-19. It might be able to ease the symptoms of acute upper respiratory tract infections, but it does not kill the virus.
FALSE – Another widely shared post advised people to gargle with salt water, alcohol, or even bleach! While the first two won’t harm you, they also won’t help. Bleach is corrosive and can serious injury, meaning that you will need to go to the hospital and risk taking up resources needed to fight the virus.
FALSE – People have expressed worry about ordering items from China, but with the global epicentres of the disease now in Europe and the USA, this concern seems unfounded.
Scientists believe that the virus is not able to survive on packages, letters, or objects for an extended period of time. The CDC advises, “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.”
To alleviate concerns, is a good idea to wipe down packages with a solution of 20mL of bleach to 1 litre of water.
The virus was created in a laboratory in China or the US
FALSE – There are plenty of internet rumours circulating that the virus was created by a nefarious government laboratory somewhere in China, or even in the US. There is no evidence to support this wild claim, and a recent study shows that the virus is likely a natural product of evolution.
COVID-19 may have made the leap from pangolins to humans, or from bats to humans. There is no evidence that it originated with ‘bat soup,’ despite faked pictures that you might see.
Above all, fact check everything you see and check it against reputable sources. Stay safe!