CORONAVIRUS – IDEAS AND MYTHS EXPLORED

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By Dr Tariq Jagnarine, BSc, MD, MMed Family medicine, CCFP

As the coronavirus continues to make the news, a host of untruths has sprung up around the topic the novel coronavirus. The novel coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, has spread from Wuhan, China to at least 184 countries and territories . The World Health Organization (WHO) officially changed their classification of the situation from a public health emergency of international concern to a pandemic on March 11.

To date, the novel coronavirus — currently dubbed “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2,” or SARS-CoV-2 for short — has been responsible for more than 1453129 infections globally, causing more than 83585 deaths. In the Guyana, the virus has affected 33 persons and has so far caused 5 deaths.

As ever, when the word “pandemic” starts appearing in headlines, people become fearful, and with fear come misinformation and rumours.

Some of the most common myths that are currently circulating on social media and beyond are:

Only older adults and young people are at risk

SARS-CoV-2, like other coronaviruses, can infect people of any age. However, older adults or individuals with pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma, Heart problems, hypertension etc., are more likely to become severely ill.

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

Applying alcohol or chlorine to the body can cause harm, especially if it enters the eyes or mouth. Although people can use these chemicals to disinfect surfaces, they should not use them on skin. These products cannot the kill viruses within the body. There is no known cure or vaccine at the moment

Children cannot catch COVID-19

All age groups can become infected. Most cases, so far, have been in adults, but children are not immune. In fact, preliminary evidence shows that children are just as likely to become infected, but their symptoms tend to be less severe.

COVID-19 is just like the flu

SARS-CoV-2 causes illness that does, indeed, have flu-like symptoms, such as aches, fever, and cough. Similarly, both COVID-19 and flu can be mild, severe, or, in rare cases, fatal. Both can also lead to pneumonia.

However, the overall profile of COVID-19 is more serious. Estimates vary, but its mortality rate seems to be between about 1% and 3%.

Although researchers are working out the exact mortality rate, thus far results indicate that it is higher than that of seasonal flu.

Everyone with COVID-19 dies

This statement is untrue. COVID-19 is only fatal for a small percentage of people. In a recent report, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 80.9% of COVID-19 cases were mild. The WHO also report that around 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 and dogs spread coronavirus

Currently, there is little evidence that SARS-CoV-2 can infect cats and dogs. However, in Hong Kong, a Pomeranian whose owner had COVID-19 became infected. The dog did not display any symptoms. In the US, one Bronx Zoo a tiger was tested positive for corona virus. Thus far, it is inconclusive if animals can transmit the virus.

Face masks protect against coronavirus

Healthcare workers use professional facemasks- N 95, which fit tightly around the face, to protect them against infection. However, disposable facemasks are unlikely to provide such protection. As these masks do not fit neatly against the face, droplets can still enter the mouth and nose. In addition, tiny viral particles can penetrate directly through the material.

However, if someone has a respiratory illness, wearing a mask can help protect others from becoming infected.

The WHO recommend that people who are caring for someone with suspected COVID-19 should wear a mask or If you are coughing or sneezing. In these cases, wearing a mask is only effective if the individual regularly washes their hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Also, when using a mask, it is important to use it and dispose of it properly.

Hand dryers, heaters can kill coronavirus

Hand dryers do not kill coronavirus. The best way to protect yourself and others from the virus is to wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub and practice self-Distancing 3-6 feet apart.

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

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, all of which have spiky proteins on their surface. Some of these viruses use humans as their primary host and cause the common cold. Other coronaviruses, such as SARS-CoV-2, primarily infect animals.

Both Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) began in animals and passed into humans.

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.

Rinsing the nose with saline or warm water protects against coronavirus

There is no evidence that a saline nose rinse protects against respiratory infections. Some research suggests that these techniques might reduce the symptoms of acute upper respiratory tract infections, but researchers have not found that it can reduce the risk of infection.

You can protect yourself by gargling bleach

Under no circumstances, gargling of bleach can benefits your health. Bleach is corrosive and can cause serious damage.

Antibiotics kill coronavirus

Antibiotics only kill bacteria; they do not kill viruses. They should not be taken as a prophylaxis unless prescribed by a physician.

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

Garlic protects against coronaviruses

Some research suggests that garlic might slow the growth of some species of bacteria. However, COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and there is no evidence that garlic can protect people against COVID-19.

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, fish tank cleaner, burning sage, 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 and social distancing.

You can catch coronavirus from eating Chinese food

Properly cooked food kills the virus; no evidence indicates transmission via food.

The virus will die off when temperatures rises.

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 behaviour of SARS-CoV-2.

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.

Flu and pneumonia vaccines protect against COVID-19

As SARS-CoV-2 is different from other viruses, no existing vaccines protect against infection has been developed to date.

During a Pandemic as COVID-19, there are always increased levels of anxiety and worry among the population. However having accurate information, relying of experts advice, can help reduce the feelings of worry. With regular hand washing, self-distancing and been properly inform we will overcome this disease together.