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Electron micrograph of Coronavirus, the cause of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS

Myths about Coronavirus investigated

As the coronavirus continues to make the news, the topic has been surrounded by a series of untruths. We answer some of those theories and conspiracies in this special feature.

A variety of myths have sprung up around the novel coronavirus
A variety of myths have sprung up around the novel coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, has spread to every continent on Earth except the Antarctica from Wuhan, China.

As we write this app more than 92,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,100 deaths occurred.

As ever, people are anxious when the word “pandemic” begins to appear in the headlines, and confusion and speculation come with fear.

Here we’ll address some of the most common myths that are currently circulating on and off social media.

1. Spraying chlorine or alcohol on skin kills viruses in the body

Applying alcohol or chlorine to the body, particularly if it reaches the eyes or mouth, may cause harm. While people may be able to use these chemicals to desinfect surfaces, they should not use them on skin.

These medications are unable to kill viruses in the body.

2. Only older adults and young people are at risk

Unlike other coronaviruses, SARS-CoV-2 can infect humans of any age. Older adults or individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, are more likely to become severely ill, however.

3. Children cannot catch COVID-19

Any age group can get sick. The majority of cases have been in adults so far, but the children are not excluded. Preliminary evidence actually shows that children are as likely to get infected, but their symptoms tend to be less severe.

4. COVID-19 is just like the flu

SARS-CoV-19 causes disease which actually has flu-like symptoms, such as aches, fever and cough. Likewise, both COVID-19 and flu can be moderate, extreme, or, occasionally, fatal. Both can lead to pneumonia, as well.

But COVID-19’s overall profile is more extreme. Estimates vary, but its mortality rate tends to be between 1% and 3%.

Although the precise mortality rate is being worked out by experts, it is estimated to be many times higher than seasonal flu.

5. Everyone with COVID-19 dies

The statement is untrue. As we have already mentioned, COVID-19 is fatal to only a small percentage of people.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in a recent report that 80.9 percent of COVID-19 cases were mild.

6. Cats and dogs spread coronavirus

There is currently no evidence that cats and dogs may be diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2. A Pomeranian whose owner had COVID-19 got infected in Hong Kong though. The dog had no symptoms.

The importance of this event for the outbreak is being debated by scientists. For example, Prof. Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at Nottingham University, UK, says:

“We need to differentiate between real infection and just identify the existence of the virus. I also think it’s uncertain how important this is to the human epidemic, because most of the global outbreak was triggered 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. Face masks protect against coronavirus

Healthcare workers use professional face masks to prevent against infection, which match tightly over the nose. Unlikely to have such protection, however, are disposable face masks.

Since these masks do not fit seamlessly with the face, droplets may still penetrate the mouth and nose. Small viral particles can also pass through the material directly.

However, wearing a mask will help protect others from being infected if someone has a respiratory disease.

“There is very little evidence that wearing these masks prevents the wearer from infection,” notes Dr. Ben Killingley, Acute Medicine and Infectious Diseases specialist at University College London Hospital, UK.

“In addition, wearing masks may offer a false sense of reassurance and can lead to denial of other infection control practices, such as hand hygiene.”

8. Hand dryers kill coronavirus

Hand dryers do not kill coronavirus.. The easiest way to protect yourself and others from the infection is by washing your hands with soap and water, or a hand scrub based on alcohol.

9. SARS-CoV-2 is just a mutated form of the common cold

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, each with spiky proteins on its surface. Some of these viruses are using humans as their primary host and triggering the common cold. Some coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, infect animals in the first place.

Both the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) originated in animals and was transmitted to people.

10. 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.

11. 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.

12. 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.

13. Antibiotics kill coronavirus

Antibiotics only kill bacteria; they do not kill viruses.

14. 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 2–10 days after infection, which means that someone infected with the virus could have a normal temperature for a few days before a fever begins.

15. Garlic protects against coronaviruses

Some research suggests that garlic might have antibiotic properties. However, there is no evidence that it can protect people against COVID-19.

16. Parcels from China can spread coronavirus

From previous research into similar coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS and are similar to SARS-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.”

17. 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, and sipping water every 15 minutes.

The best approach is to adopt a good handwashing regimen and to avoid places where there may be unwell people.

18. You can catch coronavirus from eating Chinese food in the U.S.

No, you cannot.

19. You can catch coronavirus from urine and feces

It is unlikely that this is true. 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 by our guts.”

20. 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.

21. 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.

22. Flu and pneumonia vaccines protect against COVID-19

As SARS-CoV-2 is different than other viruses, no existing vaccines protect against infection.

23. The virus originated in a laboratory in China

Despite the swathes of internet rumors, there is no evidence that this is the case. 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.

24. 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?

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.

Obianuju Chukwu

She has a degree in pharmacy and has worked in the field as a pharmacist in a hospital. Teaching, blogging, and producing scientific articles are some of her interests. She enjoys writing on various topics relating to health and medicine, including health and beauty-related natural treatments, the nutritional worth of various foods, and mental wellness.

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