The coronavirus is all anyone’s talking about. It's coming in from every news source and from friends and family, too. There’s a lot of information to sort through, and not all of it is accurate. In fact, there are several potentially dangerous myths circulating the internet, and following the wrong information could put you or those around you at serious risk. Let's break down the myths and look at the facts because if you haven't heard these myths yet, you probably will, and we'd like you to be armed with solid information when you do.
The WHO advises against wearing a mask out in public unless you’re sick since there’s no evidence that wearing one in a community setting will offer any added protection. A mask may offer an extra layer of protection if you’re caring for someone who’s sick, however, so be sure to use one if you’re coming into close contact with someone who’s known to have the virus.
The other problem with wearing a face mask is that there’s currently a global shortage. The CDC asks that people save the dwindling mask supply for the people who really need them, such as caregivers and medical professionals. Refrain from buying any medical-grade masks unless you fall into one of those categories.
The CDC is expected to ask people to begin wearing homemade masks in public soon however, to help stop the spread of the virus by asymptomatic people. But, again, masks protect others, they won't really protect you from contracting it, but they may help stop the spread if you have the virus and are unaware.
John Hopkins Medicine reports that some people have tried to keep from getting sick by drinking or gargling with bleach, peroxide or other substances. You can’t prevent an infection that way, and you could even kill yourself. So please, please, don't gargle with anything other than mouthwash or perhaps saline solution. Right now, there’s nothing that will prevent the illness other than to avoid exposure to the virus. Don’t buy into any snake oil claims to the contrary, no matter how plausible they may seem. Many are dangerous.
There are numerous strains of coronaviruses out there, and some of them are indeed similar to the common cold. That doesn’t mean the novel coronavirus that's driving this pandemic is small or less serious. Coronaviruses are also responsible for SARS and MERS infections, both of which have left deadly wakes in the past.Most people who experience the common cold suffer from mild symptoms, which can include a sore throat, runny nose, coughing and congestion. The symptoms of COVID-19, on the other hand, include a fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing — and often, people who have the virus may develop pneumonia. Some patients go on to develop sepsis and/or organ failure as well, all of which require hospitalization and can be fatal. So to confuse this for a cold could be a deadly mistake.
Just because your risks are lower if you're healthy doesn’t mean they’re nonexistent. News reports have covered the stories of several young, healthy people who have succumbed to the novel coronavirus:
The CDC estimates that about 80% of COVID-19 fatalities will occur in people 65 and older, with the majority being older than 85. That still means about 20% of deaths will occur in people younger than 65. And based on an analysis of 508 hospitalized patients, 1 in 5 were between the ages of 20 and 44. The virus can strike anyone, regardless of age. And the fear may not be in catching it but in spreading it. So please remember that everyone is at risk and protect yourself and others through responsible practices.
You may have heard someone say that the novel coronavirus is no deadlier than the flu. And this is different than saying it's like the common cold because if we say it's like the flu we can say "Well, this happens every year..." and that's not true. Let’s fact-check and lay this rumor to rest, once and for all.
Generally, about 0.1% of people who get the seasonal flu die. Based on the most recent data, the global death rate of the coronavirus is about 4.7%. COVID-19’s death rate varies widely by country. As of the end of March, Italy’s death rate topped 11%, while the death rate was 1.8% in the United States as an average with some places being higher and others coming in higher.The death rate of the flu and the novel coronavirus widely varies among age groups. For people 45 years and younger, COVID-19 is five to 10 times deadlier than the seasonal flu. For those over 85 years old, the coronavirus is 12.5 times more deadly.
So this virus isn't one to trifle with. Despite the myths circulating on the internet right now, the truth is that the novel coronavirus is much deadlier than the seasonal flu.
It would be nice if we didn’t have to worry about children contracting this disease, but someone’s wishful thinking apparently went viral. Children can catch it, and they can develop serious illnesses and even die from this virus.
According to The Guardian, over 2,100 children have contracted the coronavirus in China, with one 14-year-old dying as a result of complications. The news agency also reported the recent death of a baby in Illinois. A 17-year-old in Los Angeles also may have died due to complications, according to USA Today, but officials have been hesitant to attribute his death to the virus because there may have been additional contributing factors.
Know that children are not immune. Though they may have lower rates of infection, they are by no means in the clear.
You’ve probably heard at least one conspiracy theory about COVID-19 being made in a Chinese lab. Though there are several of these ideas circulating. But that’s all it is — a conspiracy theory. The virus was not lab-created, and it wasn’t intentionally released to kill people.
Deadly viruses pop up sometimes and sometimes they are serious. Just to be sure it wasn't some kind of conspiracy in this case, a team of scientists analyzed COVID-19’s RNA, searching for evidence. They looked for known sequences most likely to be used as the “backbone” of a lab-designed virus, but they found the virus to be “novel,” meaning it’s a strain all its own, one that clearly developed naturally and jumped species by a chance mutation. The findings were published in Nature. The research has linked the virus to the coronaviruses found in bats and pangolins.
Likewise, this is not a "Chinese virus." The Chinese people did not develop this virus and the theories saying such are proving dangerous as racist behavior rises in response, so let's stop circulating that, too.
You and your friends all feel fine, and everyone’s kids are getting restless for a play date. It should be okay to bend the rules since no one feels sick, right?
No matter how tempted you are to break social distancing boundaries, don’t. The CDC warns that incubation lengths are likely to run 2-14 days, and a person may be able to spread the virus before they’re showing any symptoms. A recent study in China shows a subset of the population may also be capable of spreading the virus without ever developing symptoms. So play it safe and don’t interact with anyone outside your household until this is over.
Cabin fever is hitting people en masse, and things are just starting to get weirder by the day. So it's easy to be fooled into thinking things that aren't true or are half-truths. Make sure to fact-check all virus-related news from reputable sources, like the CDC and the WHO, or you could wind up using or spreading dangerous misinformation that gets people hurt. Real, usable, reliable information helps keep all of us safe, especially those on the front lines. We can get through this together if we remember to act from kindness and not fear and consider our news carefully before sharing.