Myths vs. Facts: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

By: Lucy Berry DeButy

Is COVID-19 like the flu? Are young people immune? Will warmer weather kill the virus?

We’ve heard it all when it comes to COVID-19, but can you tell the difference between what’s fact and what’s fiction?

To stop the spread of misinformation around the outbreak, we’ve compiled some common COVID-19 myths and the truths that debunk them.

Let’s take a look.

MYTH – Coronavirus is nothing more than the seasonal flu.

While the symptoms may be similar, COVID-19 and the flu are not the same.

Dr. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins, said both conditions are caused by different viruses.

For example, the novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, causes COVID-19, while the flu is caused by several different types and strains of influenza viruses.

The flu also has a vaccine, while COVID-19 does not. Federal health leaders hope to have one available sometime next year.

“The COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly,” said Dr. Maragakis. “Since this disease is caused by a new virus, people do not have immunity to it, and a vaccine may be many months away. Doctors and scientists are working on estimating the mortality rate of COVID-19, but at present, it is thought to be higher than that of most strains of the flu.”

MYTH – Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds mean you aren’t infected.

Definitely not. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the best way to confirm you have coronavirus is through a laboratory test – not a breathing exercise.

“Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort DOES NOT mean you are free from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or any other lung disease,” the agency said.

MYTH – Coronavirus only affects old and sick people.

Although older people and those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of getting sick, COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. Anyone – from a healthy newborn to a college student – can be impacted by the disease.

The best things you can do to protect yourself and others is wash your hands, practice social distancing, cover your cough or sneeze, and clean and disinfect surfaces frequently.

Review the CDC’s latest guidelines here.

MYTH – I need to stockpile food and supplies for my family.

No, and by doing so, you may actually be making things worse. According to the Alabama Grocers Association, the system is in good shape and customers shouldn’t worry about a future food shortage.Do your part by not hoarding nonperishable groceries and supplies. Instead, only shop for what you need now. This allows grocers to catch up and ensures others – particularly low-income and elderly residents – don’t go without essential items.

“We are asking that customers shop responsibly,” said Kroger spokeswoman Melissa Eads. “If they don’t need it for that week, leave it for the next person who might because we will continue to restock.”

MYTH – COVID-19 will go away once the weather warms up.

Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t back this up. WHO said COVID-19 can be transmitted in all areas, including those with hot and humid climates. So it continues to be important to be vigilant as summer approaches.

“Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to, an area reporting COVID-19,” WHO said. “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.”

MYTH – Pets can get coronavirus.

So far, there have been no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the U.S. The American Veterinary Medical Association said there’s also no information at this time that suggests pets could be a source of infection.

Out of an abundance of caution, COVID-19 patients should restrict contact with pets and other animals. Ask someone else to help feed and care for your pets until you are well. Those who have service animals or must care for their pets themselves can take precautions.

“Wear a cloth face covering; don’t pet, share food, kiss, or hug them; and wash your hands before and after any contact with your pet or service animal,” AVMA said. “You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home.”

MYTH – Drinking alcohol, eating garlic, using saline nasal spray, applying essential oils to the skin, and gargling with bleach or hot water are all effective ways to combat COVID-19.

“Each of these ideas has been touted on social media platforms as a way to prevent disease,” HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology said. “None of them are effective – and some are actually dangerous.”

Don’t believe the hype. The only proven methods for fighting coronavirus are separating and sanitizing frequently.

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