Busting the myths around COVID-19

Avatar for Mish Khot By in Coronavirus, COVID-19, What is coronavirus on 19/03/2020
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The unbelievably fast spread of the Coronavirus COVID-19 has engendered an almost-as-fast rumour mill of myths about coronavirus and how to protect yourself and how to tell if you have been infected. With the deep penetration of social media in all homes and devices, it’s easy to fall prey to incorrect information. In this article, Avaana breaks down the myths around COVID-19.

The myths about Coronavirus and the mask

As soon as news of COVID-19 began to spread, the demand for masks began to rise. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), you should wear a mask if you going out in public, taking care of a person suspected or confirmed to have the infection, and if you are coughing or sneezing.

There is no harm in wearing a mask whether you are a child, a senior citizen, or an adult. People with certain conditions like claustrophobia or respiratory problems may find it difficult to wear a mask. Very young children or those with mental health problems may not understand why they need to keep a mask on all the time. Apart from these sections of society, the myths around COVID-19 are not reasons to avoid wearing a mask.

If you are using a mask, you should follow the correct procedure to put it on, take it off, and dispose of it. Check out the WHO recommendations on the correct usage of a mask here.

The myths around COVID-19 and the cure

There is currently no known cure for COVID-19. People who are infected with it will be hospitalized, isolated and will receive treatment for the symptoms. Most people will recover unless the condition is complicated by other health conditions.

There is no known ayurvedic or holistic cure for COVID-19, regardless of who is making the claim. The myths around COVID-19 include recommendations to gargle with hot saline water or take vitamins – these may improve your health but will not protect you from contracting the coronavirus.

While there is no cure, as of early 2021, a variety of COVID-19 vaccines have been rolled out around the world. These function as prevention but will still require social distancing and basic health measures.

The myths around COVID-19 and contracting the virus from animals, pets, or mosquito bites

You cannot be infected by COVID-19 through mosquito bites, but you may develop other illnesses. It’s best to protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times.

There has been one reported case of a dog in Hong Kong being infected by the novel Coronavirus, but there is no evidence of cats or dogs being able to transmit the virus.  

The myths about Coronavirus and only older people being vulnerable to COVID-19

One of the biggest myths around COVID-19 is that only older people can be infected. This has led to younger people exposing themselves to the virus and being infected.

People of all ages, including children, may be infected by this new virus. People with pre-existing medical conditions, especially those with heart and lung conditions or diabetes are more vulnerable to developing severe and even fatal complications from COVID-19.

Older people are more likely to have weaker health or certain conditions that are considered comorbidities for the coronavirus.

The myths around COVID-19 being treatable by home remedies

There is no home remedy to prevent infection with COVID-19. There are numerous suggestions recommending eating garlic, rinsing your nose with saline spray, spraying alcohol over your body and surroundings, taking extremely hot showers, etc – but none of these have been found to be effective.

The myths about Coronavirus that thermal scanners are enough to protect you

Thermal scanners are effective in detecting those with higher than normal body temperatures. However, if someone is carrying or has been infected by the virus but has not yet developed fever, the thermal scanner will not detect it.

The myths around COVID-19 and the weather

Early rumours about the rising summer temperatures being a deterrent to the spread of the Coronavirus have proven untrue. COVID-19 can be transmitted in any weather, cold or hot, and you may be at risk even in peak summer temperatures. The reverse is also true. Cold weather and snow are not deterrents to the spread of COVID-19.

The myths about Coronavirus vaccine for older people

There is a prevailing myth that the vaccine is hazardous to older people. This is not the truth.

While it is possible that the vaccine will cause a slight fever, this is a natural reaction to the vaccine. It may increase the risk for elders with pre-existing conditions, but it does not directly result in death.

The myths around COVID-19 vaccine’s ineffectiveness

The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in use are among the fastest vaccines developed in the history of medicine. It takes, on an average, at least a decade to research and produce new vaccines. This is the reason for the inefficacy myths about Coronavirus vaccines here.

The efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine is being researched and observed as vaccines roll out. All authorities recommend that even those who are vaccinated maintain social distancing norms as they may be carriers.

With the emergence of new strains of the coronavirus, it is not known how much the existing vaccines can protect you.

Most people argue that because the vaccine was created so quickly, it hasn’t been well researched and is not likely to deliver the expected results. The vaccine was made in record time because of the scale of effort and research which was necessary given the exceptional circumstances.

The myths about Coronavirus vaccine Oxford-AstraZeneca having poor efficacy

Much has been said about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which is Australia’s primary vaccine of choice against the virus with 50 million doses set to be produced locally.

There has been some comparison to other vaccines which showed 95% efficacy while Oxford-AstraZeneca was reported to show 60-70%. However the Astra-Zeneca has proven effective in preventing serious cases of the virus and is highly effective in curbing the harmful effects of COVID-19.

This will reduce the number of deaths and serious cases arising from the disease, which is the primary concern at the moment.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is given in two doses, 12 weeks apart. After the first vaccine, the efficacy reported was 60-70% but it rose to 82% after the second dose. The coronavirus is about 5-10 times more deadly than influenza, so a vaccine which reduces incidence of death by about 80% is one that is definitely worth using.

The myths around COVID-19 infection and not needing the vaccine

This is one of those statements which only time will verify. It is true that once you have overcome the infection, your body will have produced antibodies to fend off future virus attacks. However it is not known how long the antibodies will survive in your system.

Medical precedence says that the antibodies should survive for about 10-14 months but there has been no conclusive evidence so far. There has also been no evidence from any harm resulting from revaccination. So even if you have beaten the virus, you may consider taking the vaccine for added protection that might make you immune for a longer period of time.

The myths about Coronavirus vaccine’s detrimental effect on pregnancy

The myth around COVID-19’s negative impact on pregnancy is a baseless allegation that is not supported by any studies or backed by conclusive evidence. None of the vaccines, in use or development have shown any impact on fertility. However the vaccines have not been tested on pregnant women so most countries have advised pregnant women to not seek vaccination.

How to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19

To understand how to protect yourself from COVID-19, you should know how it spreads.

The novel Coronavirus is spread through microscopic droplets that are exhaled from the nose or mouth of an infected person. If these droplets land on a surface or person and are picked up by your hands and conveyed to your nose, eyes, or mouth, you may develop the virus.

The only known way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to protect yourself from infection is to ensure that you do not pick up those droplets, or if you do, that you do not transfer them to yourself.

Read our post on FAQs about COVID-19 to know more about novel coronavirus.

Here’s how you can stay safe:

myths around COVID-19

Wash your hands as often as you can with soap and water to remove any virus that you may have picked up. If you do not have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers generously.

Wash your hands as often as you can with soap and water to remove any virus that you may have picked up. If you do not have access to soap and water, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers generously.

Stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing, to prevent these droplets landing on your clothes, belongings, or on your body.

Avoid touching your mouth, nose, face, eyes unless you have just cleaned your hands.

If you have to sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or with a tissue. Dispose of the used tissue immediately.

Social distancing – how to do it

If you can afford it, stay home. Social distancing is a way to remain away from infection and prevent becoming a carrier of the virus. Many countries, Australia included, have banned social gatherings. Some countries have even shut down movie theatres, shopping malls, schools, office buildings, and other places where people congregate.

Here’s how to practice social distancing:

  • Order your groceries and essentials online if possible
  • Reduce all non-essential meetings and outings, and avoid letting people (apart from household members) into the house. This includes extended family.
  • If you have to go out during social distancing, follow these best practices:
  • Use alcohol hand-sanitizer as much as possible
  • When out, stay at least 6 feet away from people who are sneezing or coughing
  • If you have to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth in the crook of your elbow
  • Be aware of what your hands are touching, and wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently
  • When you get home, wash your hands with soap and water
  • If you live with roommates, family members or your partner, make sure to regularly disinfect surfaces like doorknobs and tables that are frequently handled.
  • Make sure you are keeping living spaces well-ventilated and clean.
  • Explain the situation to all members of the household, and agree on the measures you will all follow at home. Do not assume that the information about COVID-19 is common knowledge.
  • Instead of going to a gym, choose to book online classes with a personal trainer and stay safe instead.
  • For those who are participating in sessions for physiotherapy or counselling, you do not have to stop your treatment. Ask your practitioner for a counselor online instead.

Social distancing can be difficult and frightening. Read our post on how to stay sane during social distancing.

Self-quarantine – how and when to do it

If you have COVID-19, have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, have recently travelled to places with COVID-19 cases, or have recently developed flu-like symptoms, you should self-isolate or self-quarantine.

Self-isolation should last for 14 days. You must stay at home during this time, and avoid meeting even family members, especially older relatives.

This is how to self-isolate:

Do not go into public places or meet people, including dropping children off at school, going to work, meeting friends, or letting visitors in.

Stay in touch with loved ones or colleagues through phone calls or video chat.

Ask someone to bring you necessities and leave them at your front door.

Do not interact with delivery staff, courier employees, or retail outlet workers.

If you need to get medical help, contact your local authorities. Wear a mask when meeting your healthcare professionals, and continue to use alcohol hand-rubs.

Avatar for Mish Khot

Mishana Khot is a fiction author and co-founder of The Great Next, an adventure travel company. She has been featured in National Geographic, Forbes magazine, and other publications, and has over 15 years of experience with health, travel, and lifestyle brands.

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