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Countering myths and misconceptions about novel coronavirus (COVID-19)

Since the virus shows no signs of slowing down, it's critical to counter plenty of myths surrounding the novel coronavirus that has wreaked havoc in nearly 75 countries.

Renu MehtaRenu Mehta | Updated: 05-03-2020 07:00 IST | Created: 04-03-2020 15:47 IST
Countering myths and misconceptions about novel coronavirus (COVID-19)
To date, no specific medicine has been recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Image Credit: ANI

The novel coronavirus, aka COVID-19, a new strain of previously unidentified coronavirus in humans is rapidly spreading around the world. As of writing this article, the fast-spreading deadly virus has claimed over 3,100 lives globally.

To date, no specific medicine has been recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Since the virus shows no signs of slowing down, it's critical to counter plenty of myths surrounding the novel coronavirus that has wreaked havoc in nearly 75 countries.

Here are common myths and misconceptions about the novel coronavirus that have been busted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Myth 1: Face masks protect you from coronavirus infections

A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for healthcare workers who rely on personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their patients from being infected and infecting others. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

Myth 2: Antibiotics are effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

However, if you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Myth 3: The new coronavirus affects older people

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

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.

Myth 4: Hand dryers are effective in killing the new coronavirus

Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV. To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

Myth 5: Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus

Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever (i.e. have a higher than normal body temperature) because of infection with the new coronavirus.

However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with a fever. This is because it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Myth 6: Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kills the new coronavirus

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

Myth 7: It is unsafe to receive a letter or a package from China

People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.

Myth 8: Pets can spread the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after being around pets or other animals. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

Also, ff you are infected with COVID-19, avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.

Myth 9: Vaccines against pneumonia can protect against the new coronavirus

Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.

The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Myth 10: Eating garlic helps prevent infection with the new coronavirus

Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

Myth 11: Warm weather will stop the outbreak of COVID-19

It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when the weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

Myth 12: Coronavirus can spread through food, including refrigerated food

Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.

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