Since COVID-19 or the coronavirus is still so new, there is a lot of information about it everywhere you turn. The World Health Organization (WHO) changed its classification from a public health emergency to a pandemic on March 11. So as more is reported about the virus, folks become fearful, and hand-in-hand with fear comes rumors, conspiracies, and just plain old untruths.
Here are a few of the rumors, conspiracies and untruths that have been circulating:
African Americans cannot get the coronavirus: This is an absolute untruth! Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, says the virus is a threat that African Americans need to take particularly seriously. “The biggest challenge is the fact that people of color, African Americans, start out with health outcomes that are disproportionately poor when compared to white Americans. The highest risk, if you get this disease, is to someone 60 or older with chronic disease. With African Americans, you start with a population that is disproportionately sicker, and if it gets exposed, it will have a higher death rate,” says Dr. Benjamin.
Spraying alcohol or chlorine on the skin will kill the virus before entering your system: Applying alcohol or chlorine on the skin can be harmful especially if the solution enters the eyes. These sanitizing products can be used to disinfect surfaces but cannot kill viruses before they enter the body.
Hot baths will protect you from the virus: Taking a hot bath can scald you but it will not keep the virus away. The best way to protect yourself against the coronavirus is to keep your hands clean and away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
Rinsing nostrils with saline kills the virus: Shooting saline solution up your nose will not prevent or kill the virus says the WHO. Nasal saline may provide temporary relief of congestion by removing nasal crusts and dried secretions but it has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.
After getting coronavirus you have immunity: Long-term immunity after exposure and infection is unknown, according to Dr. Jay C. Butler, MD, deputy director for infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers do know that reinfection is an issue with the four seasonal coronaviruses that cause about 10 to 30% of common colds. These coronaviruses seem to be able to sicken individuals again and again, even though people have been exposed to them since childhood. Most respiratory viruses only give you a period of relative protection, perhaps about a year or two. That’s what scientists do know about the seasonal coronaviruses. Until the recent emergence of SARS-Cov2, the official name of the current coronavirus, and this pandemic, scientists say, there just hasn’t been much of a research push to fully understand how and why reinfection with coronaviruses can occur.
Eating garlic prevents infection: Garlic is healthy in many ways and does have antimicrobial properies but there is no evidence that it has protected folks from getting the coronavirus.
Antibiotics can rid the body of the virus: Antibiotics in general do not work on viruses, only on bacterial infections. If someone is hospitalized with COVID-19, they may develop a secondary infection that is bacterial and thereby need antibiotics to treat it.
Only older adults are seriously affected: NO! The coronavirus is an equal opportunity virus. No one is immune to it! For older adults and those with preexisting conditions like asthma, diabetes or HIV, the risk of getting into trouble is considerably higher when they have the virus. So for these individuals, it is extra-important for them to take actions to reduce their risk of getting sick with the disease.
Coronavirus is like the flu: The coronavirus causes illness that does mimic the flu like severe aches, fever and cough. Both the coronaviruse and the flu can range from mild, to severe, to even fatal. Both can also lead to pneumonia. COVID-19 is more serious than the flu, however, because its mortality rates are about one percent to three percent. Scientists are still investigating to come up with an exact figure for the mortality rate of the virus. There are guesstimates that the coronavirus mortality rate will be much higher than the seasonal flu’s rate.
If you get the coronavirus you will die: Only a small percentage of folks will pass away from COVID-19 (see previous bullet). In a recent report, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 80.9% of COVID-19 cases were mild. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 80% of people will experience a relatively mild form of the disease and not require specialist treatment in a hospital. Mild symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness, and shortness of breath.
You can catch the virus quickly from an infected person: The longer you are in the presence of an infected person, the more likely you are to catch the virus. According to scientific evidence, you can catch the virus in less than 10 minutes.
Tried-and-true home remedies can protect you from the virus: Wishful thinking! The internet is full of nutty remedies from folks who claim their concoctions will protect you from the virus. POPPYCOCK! Home remedies like drinking herbal teas, inhaling iodized salt with orange/lemon peels and garlic/ginger, taking essential oils, silver colloid, sesame oil, fish tank cleaner, taking sips of bleach, sipping warm water every 15 minutes, gargling with lemon, not eating ice–none of these home remedies will kill off or protect you from the virus. What WILL keep you safe is to make handwashing a mainstay in your home and keep a safe distance from folks when you have to make a supermarket run.
Eating Chinese food will infect you with the virus: NOT! Without an end in sight to the coronavirus crisis, it has been largely framed—provocatively and unfairly—by its Chinese origin. According to Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and professor at the Johns Hopkins University, the belief that Chinese food can cause the virus is completely false. “The virus spreads through the respiratory route,” he said. “And droplets that are in coughs and sneezes.” He said there is absolutely no evidence that this virus is a “food-borne-illness.”
Coronavirus will die off in the spring: Viruses like the cold and flu, do make their way around in the colder months, but that does not mean they will come to a halt when the temps warm up. As it stands, doctors still do not know how temperature changes will influence the behavior of COVID-19.
Flu and pneumonia vaccines protect against the coronavirus: COVID-19 is different than other viruses so there are no existing vaccines that can protect against it
The virus came from a lab in China: There is no concrete evidence that the virus came from a Chinese lab despite the internet rumors. In fact, a recent study demonstrates that the virus is a natural product of evolution. There are some clinicians who believe that SARS-CoV-2 (which causes the coronavirus disease) may have jumped from pangolins to humans. Others think that it might have passed to us from bats, which was the case for SARS.
The virus developed after eating bat soup: Thus far, researchers know that the virus originated from animals, but there is no evidence that eating bat soup got the ball rolling.
Cats and dogs can spread the virus: There is little evidence that the virus can infect dogs and cats. There is one documented piece of info, however, that a small dog in Hong Kong developed the virus after its owner tested positive for it too. The dog displayed no symptoms. Infectious disease experts maintain that most of the global outbreak has been driven by human-to-human transmission.
The virus does not linger in the air nor does it remain on surfaces: A new analysis found that the virus can remain viable in the air for up to 3 hours, on copper for up to 4 hours, on cardboard up to 24 hours and on plastic and stainless steel up to 72 hours. This study was originally published in the preprint database medRxiv on March 11, and now a revised version was published March 17 in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Another study published last month in The Journal of Hospital Infection, researchers concluded that if this new coronavirus resembles other human coronaviruses, such as its “cousins” that cause SARS and MERS, it can stay on surfaces — such as metal, glass or plastic — for as long as nine days (In comparison, flu viruses can last on surfaces for only about 48 hours.).
The virus can spread through the mail: For the most part, no. Early on in the outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) set out to dispel myths surrounding coronavirus—and the worry that coronavirus could travel from China via packages was one of them. According to the WHO, “People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus.”