"The real driver of the outbreak is humans.”
A number of Coronavirus myths such as claims on how to avoid it is a major factor surrounding the topic.
Since it first emerged in Wuhan, China, Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread to every continent on Earth except Antarctica.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially classed the virus as a pandemic.
Over 1 million people worldwide have been infected and more than 59,000 people have died.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, people become more fearful and this leads to various claims on how to avoid catching it.
We look at 15 Coronavirus myths which need to be dissected.
Spraying Chlorine or Alcohol on Skin
One myth is that spraying chlorine or alcohol on the skin will kill viruses in the body. This is untrue.
Applying them onto the body can cause harm, especially if it enters the eyes or mouth.
Even though people can use these chemicals to disinfect surfaces, they should not use them on skin.
Everyone who becomes Infected Dies
This myth is untrue as COVID-19 is only fatal for a small percentage of people, between 1% and 3%.
The Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a report and concluded that 80.9% of all cases were mild.
The WHO also reported that approximately 80% of people will experience a relatively mild form of the disease, which will not require specialist treatment in a hospital.
Mild symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness and shortness of breath.
Cats & Dogs Spread the Virus
There is little evidence to show that Coronavirus can infect cats and dogs, however, a man from Hong Kong had COVID-19 and ended up infecting his dog.
The dog did not show any symptoms.
Professor Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology at the University of Nottingham, said:
“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.
“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.”
Face Masks offer Protection
Healthcare workers who use face masks are protected against infection as they fit tightly around the face.
However, disposable face masks are unlikely to provide such protection.
As they do not fit tightly around the face, droplets can still enter the mouth and nose. Tiny viral particles can also penetrate directly through the material.
But if someone already has a respiratory illness, wearing a mask can help protect others from becoming infected.
Dr Ben Killingley explained:
“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.”
WHO recommends that people who are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 should wear a mask.
With these type of cases, wearing a mask is only effective if the person regularly washes their hands.
It is also important to dispose of the mask properly.
Hand Dryers kill Coronavirus
Hand dryers do not kill Coronavirus. To protect yourself, you should frequently wash your hands with an alcohol-based rub or with soap and water.
Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly using paper towels or a warm air dryer.
Children cannot Catch COVID-19
All age groups can become infected. While most cases are adults, children are not immune.
Preliminary evidence shows that children are just as likely to become infected, but their symptoms tend to be less severe.
Rinsing the Nose with Saline
There is no evidence that using saline to rinse the nose will protect against respiratory infections.
Some research indicates that this technique might reduce the symptoms of acute upper respiratory tract infections.
However, scientists have not found that it can reduce the risk of infection.
Garlic offers Protection
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties.
Research suggests that it may slow the growth of some species of bacteria.
However, as COVID-19 is caused by a virus, there is no evidence that garlic can protect people against the virus.
Rising Temperatures will Kill the Virus
Some virus does spread more easily in the colder months but the evidence shows that COVID-19 can be transmitted in all areas, including hot and humid areas.
No matter the climate, take precautions if you live in a place where there is COVID-19.
The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands.
By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Pneumonia Vaccines Protect You
Vaccines against pneumonia do not provide protection against Coronavirus.
As it is a new virus, it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against the virus and WHO is supporting their efforts.
Although these vaccines are not effective against Coronavirus, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended.
Only the Old & Young are at Risk
People of all ages can be infected by COVID-19 so this myth is false.
However, older adults or individuals with pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma are more likely to become ill.
WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.
Do Antibiotics Work?
No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.
The new Coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
However, if you are hospitalised after becoming infected, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Parcels from China can Spread Coronavirus
From previous research into similar Coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS and are similar to COVID-19, 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.”.
You can Contract it from Urine & Faeces
It is unlikely that this is true, but it is not truly known.
According to Professor John Edmunds from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK:
“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 faeces. Usually, viruses we can detect in this way are not infectious to others, as they have been destroyed by our guts.”
However, it is worth noting that some research concludes that viruses, which are similar to COVID-19, might persist in faeces. A recent research letter in JAMA also concludes that COVID-19 is present in faeces.
The Virus came from a Chinese Lab
There have been rumours of this on the internet but there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case.
A recent study demonstrates that the virus is a natural product of evolution.
Some researchers believe that COVID-19 may have jumped from pangolins to humans. Others think that it might have passed to us from bats, which was the case for SARS.
These myths have been proven untrue. The most effective way to reduce the spread of Coronavirus is to:
- 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
The tips may sound simple but these are the best ways to make a difference.