Tuesday 7 July, 2020

Fake news: These coronavirus myths are spreading like wildfire

The latest figures from the World Health Organisation have revealed that there are now more than 118,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases globally, and almost 4,300 deaths.

In the Caribbean, there have been several confirmed cases. The most recent was one in Jamaica, but there have also been five confirmed cases in the Dominican Republic, three in Martinique, two in Saint Martin, and one in St Barts.

There has been a lot of medical advice about how we can all protect ourselves and help stop the spread of the virus. But there have been just as many myths which range from ridiculous to dangerous.

Here, we list some of the most common myths in circulation:

COVID-19 virus can't be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates

COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to, an area reporting 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.

Cold weather and snow can kill the new coronavirus

There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather. 

Taking a hot bath prevents the new coronavirus disease

Taking a hot bath will NOT protect you from catching COVID-19. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you. 

The new coronavirus can be transmitted through goods manufactured in China or any country reporting COVID-19 cases.

Even though the new coronavirus can stay on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days (depending on the type of surface), it is very unlikely that the virus will persist on a surface after being moved, travelled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures. If you think a surface may be contaminated, use a disinfectant to clean it. After touching it, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

The new coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites.

To date, there has been NO information or evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus can be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. 

Hand dryers help kill the new coronavirus

NO! Hand dryers are not effective in killing the COVID-19. 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.

Thermal scanners help detect 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. But they CAN'T detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. This is because it takes between two and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will kill the new coronavirus

NO, it won't. 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.

Pets at home spread the new coronavirus

At present, there is NO evidence that 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 contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

Vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus

NO! Vaccines against pneumonia 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 COVID-19, and the World Health Organisation is supporting their efforts.

Although these vaccines are not effective against the virus, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help prevent infection with the new coronavirus

NO! There is no evidence that regularly rinsing your nose with saline can protect you from infection with the new coronavirus. 

There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

The new coronavirus only affects older people

NOT TRUE! People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus. 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.

Antibiotics can help prevent and treat the new coronavirus

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 for the virus, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

There are specific medicines to prevent and treat the new coronavirus

To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus.

However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimised supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials. WHO is helping to accelerate research and development efforts with a range or partners.

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