The novel coronavirus has spread all across the globe. The World Health Organisation declared it a pandemic on March 11, 2020. As this pandemic continues to infect people around the world, news, social media posts, and articles about the novel coronavirus are also spreading online. Keeping track of what’s real and what’s false is not easy. We have compiled a list of some of the most common myths about coronavirus and explained why they are misleading.
1. Myth no 1 – COVID-19 is a mutated form of the flu
While both flu and COVID-19 are respiratory illnesses, they are quite different. Dry cough, fever, and fatigue are the three main symptoms of COVID-19. While some other viral infections also cause these symptoms, they are also accompanied by aches and pains. Common cold causes runny nose, sneezing, and sore throat, while these symptoms do not occur with COVID-19. Another aspect that differentiates COVID-19 from flu is the mortality rate. While the mortality rate of COVID-19 is between 3 to 4 %, the mortality rate of flu is 0.1% (1).
2. Myth No 2 – The novel coronavirus was created in a lab
Though there are several rumors that this virus originated in a laboratory in China, there is no evidence to prove it. SARS-CoV-2 is quite similar to SARS-CoV and MERS CoV, and all these viruses originated in bats. In other words, SARS-CoV-2 is similar to other viruses that made the jump from animals to people. According to a recent study published in Nature Medicine, two specific features of SARS-CoV-2 (the mutations in the RBD portions of the spike protein and its distinct backbone) rule out laboratory manipulation as its potential origin (2).
3. Myth No 3 – 5G helps the coronavirus spread
There are several conspiracy theories that 5G technology helps transmit coronavirus. Wuhan was one of the first cities in China to use 5G technology, which may be the reason why people linked 5G to coronavirus. However, many other cities in China, like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, also started using 5G at the same time.
Many of these conspiracy theories that link coronavirus to 5G refer to an article published in 2011 (3). This article states that bacteria can communicate through electromagnetic signals. Experts debunk this theory as coronavirus is a virus and not a bacterium.
4. Myth No 4 – Coronavirus affects only the old people
Although older people, and people who have pre-existing illnesses like asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, are more vulnerable to falling ill with this virus, people of all ages can be infected. The WHO advises people of all ages to protect themselves from coronavirus by following good hands hygiene and respiratory hygiene.
5. Myth No 5 – Children can’t catch the coronavirus
Though initial reports from China showed fewer cases of COVID-19 in children as compared to adults, more recent studies have shown that children are just as likely as adults to get infected. According to a study from Shenzhen China, children are at a similar risk of infection as the general population, though they are less likely to have severe symptoms (4).
6. Myth No 6 – Face masks can protect against coronavirus
Hand-made cloth masks and standard surgical masks cannot protect you against coronavirus. These masks do not stop tiny viral particles. However, these masks can prevent infected people from spreading the virus further as they block respiratory droplets that you expel from the mouth.
The N95 respirators, when worn correctly, are useful in filtering out 95 % of the very tiny particles. These masks are designed to form a tight seal around your face. They have to be tested to see if they form a proper seal around your face. Due to the shortage of supply, the N95 masks are reserved for healthcare workers and first responders.
7. Myth No 7 – The virus will die when the temperature rises in spring
Many of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 have been in regions where the weather is colder, leading to the spread of the myth that the virus will die when the temperature rises in spring. Some viruses like cold and flu do spread more quickly in the colder season, but pandemics don’t follow seasonal patterns. More research is needed to know whether season and temperature can affect the transmissibility and severity of this virus.
8. Myth No 8 – Everyone who gets COVID-19 dies
Not everyone who gets COVID-19 dies. Most of the COVID-19 cases are mild and do not require treatment in hospitals. According to a recently published report, 80.9% of the people infected with coronavirus have mild symptoms (5). These symptoms may include fever, sore throat, cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), COVID-19 has a mortality rate of 3.4%.
9. Myth No 9 – Pets can spread coronavirus
There is no evidence that shows that pets can spread the virus that causes COVID-19. This virus mainly spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing, and talking. There have been some cases where dogs and cats have become infected after close contact with people with COVID-19. There was even a case of a tiger in the New York Zoo testing positive to COVID-19. The CDC advises you should avoid contact with your pets if you are sick with COVID-19 (6).
10. Myth No 10 – Garlic can protect people from coronavirus
There have been some rumors that garlic and garlic water can protect people from coronavirus, but there is no evidence to show that. According to the WHO, garlic is a healthy food that has antibacterial properties. However, there is no proof that eating garlic can prevent coronavirus.
11. Myth No 11 – Drinking vodka can prevent coronavirus
Recently a letter from St Luke’s Hospital was seen circulating on social media claiming that drinking alcohol, especially vodka, can help prevent COVID-19. Soon the hospital put up a post on their Facebook page explaining that the letter was a fake and there is no link between alcohol consumption and preventing coronavirus.
The WHO has also dispelled the myth that alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of COVID-19. In fact, according to WHO, frequent and excessive use of alcohol can increase your risk of health problems.
12. Myth No 12 – Coronavirus can be transmitted through mosquito bites
Mosquitoes are known to spread many viruses like dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever, but there’s no evidence to show that they are transmitting SARS-CoV-2. The novel coronavirus is a respiratory virus that is mainly transmitted through droplets that are generated when a person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
From 5G towers to mosquito bites and garlic water, there are plenty of myths and fake remedies for coronavirus that has spread online. Many people fall for these dangerous lies and put themselves at risk. Beware of these myths and lies and gain information about coronavirus from trusted sources like the WHO website and through your local public health authority. You can prevent getting infected and spreading COVID-19 by following some simple steps –
- Wash your hands properly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Practice social distancing. Maintain a two-meter distance between yourself and other people.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover
Disinfect all the surfaces that you touch daily.