COVID-19: Debunking myths about the novel coronavirus outbreak

By | March 16, 2020

WINNIPEG — As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads worldwide, so too does information about the virus — but how much of that information is trustworthy?

In February, the World Health Organization described the reaction to COVID-19 as what it called an ‘infodemic.” It defined the term as, ‘an over-abundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.’

In response to the spread of misinformation, the WHO put together a team to track myths and rumours about the virus and dispel them with facts.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have also been aiding in the effort to contain the spread of inaccurate information by removing such content from their sites and promoting trustworthy sources.

Here is a clarification of some myths and facts about COVID-19:

COVID-19 is not transmitted through the air. Some viruses can be transmitted through the air. However, according to the WHO, COVID-19 is not one of them. Rather, this virus is transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets produced when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or exhales. Experts say because of this, so long as people stay three feet apart, droplets are more likely to fall harmlessly than they are to come in contact with another person. What’s not clear is whether droplets that fall on counters, desks or other surfaces are still able to infect others or for how long those droplets stay infectious.

COVID-19 cannot be transmitted by a person who has no symptoms. While generally accepted, this is not considered definitive. Studies show there is a very low risk of transmission when a person shows no symptoms. It’s important to remember many people who test positive for COVID -19 show only mild symptoms, especially at the earliest stages of the infection.

Younger people are not susceptible to the virus. This is considered to be a myth. Demographic breakdowns of those who’ve tested positive for the disease show people is their 30s, 40s and 50s are not immune to the infection. Statistics do show older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions appear to be more vulnerable to COVID-19. Younger people must still be vigilant and take precautions against infection as they may pass it along to those who are at greater risk.

• Surgical masks protect the wearer from contracting the infection. This is a myth according to the WHO. Instead, the organization recommends masks only for those who’ve already tested positive for COVID-19 and are displaying symptoms, and for those in direct contact with someone who may have the virus. The overreliance on masks is leading to a shortage of them worldwide. Instead, experts say the best way to cut the spread of the disease is to practice frequent handwashing and avoid face-touching.

Cold weather or heat are deadly to the COVID-19 virus. This is a myth. Neither cold weather, nor heat (such as that produced by hand dryers) nor ultra-violet lamps are effective at killing COVID-19 or sterilizing hands or other parts of the body.

 

   – with files from CTV’s Jackie Dunham 

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