Demystifying COVID-19: Myths and Misinformation

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The world is currently drowning in the fear of a new coronavirus disease called COVID-19. Its journey from an outbreak back in November 2019 in Wuhan to being characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020 has only escalated terror in the hearts of all. So far it has affected about 176 countries worldwide with approximately 307,280 active cases. 

News channels and social media networks have generated a consortium of information to keep us updated on COVID-19. However, not everything circulating on social media platforms is accurate.

Plenty of misinformation is being shared which is creating unnecessary panic and fear in the masses.

Particularly in Pakistan, where more than half of the population believes in the power of home remedies, myths can easily pass for facts. Thus, for an effective civic response, facts should be promoted loud and clear.

The following read will debunk some of the myths floating around on COVID-19.

Myth #1
“COVID-19 cannot be transmitted to warmer climate regions

Fact: According to the current evidence, all areas are vulnerable to infection by the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The virus can be transmitted to regions with hotter climates and there is still no evidence that the change in weather conditions is associated with any protective effects.

Myth #2
“Eating garlic helps prevent COVID-19 infection”

There is no scientific evidence which indicates that garlic consumption protected against COVID-19 infection.

Though garlic possesses antimicrobial properties, it has had no effect on the new virus.

Therefore, do not be under the assumption that “A garlic a day, keeps the Corona away”. 

Myth #3
SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted by mosquitoes”

 Fact: To this date, no such evidence has surfaced that would indicate that SARS-CoV-2 virus is transmitted by mosquito bites. The virus spreads from droplets generated from the coughs and sneezes of infected individuals.

Even though mosquitoes do not transmit COVID-19, we should nonetheless protect ourselves from mosquito bites. The coming months bring dengue in full swing in regions like Pakistan, making it even harder to battle on two fronts: dengue and COVID-19. Therefore, it is better to be proactive and prepare accordingly.

Myth #4
COVID-19 only affects older people, so the younger population is safe”

Fact: The virus can infect people of all ages. The elderly and those with pre-medical conditions (asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and immunological conditions) are more vulnerable as compared to others. According to Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), the average age of people who lost their lives to COVID-19 in Italy is 81 years. The reason for receiving such a hard blow is a compromised immune system, making the fight with COVID-19 for the older individuals more difficult.

According to a new report published on 18th March by Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 40% of the patients hospitalized in the US were between the ages of 20-54. Therefore, the assumption that the younger population is safe from COVID-19 is not accurate.  

Moreover, when infected without any symptoms, the seemingly immune people can pose a greater threat by being silent carriers of the disease. Therefore, it is vital that we all maintain a good hand and respiratory hygiene to prevent getting infected.

Myth #5
“It is necessary to wear masks all the time”

Fact: As per the WHO guidelines, masks should be worn by the individuals who show symptoms of COVID-19. WHO and CDC do not recommend face masks for the general public for the prevention of COVID-19. 

There is a huge debate on the usage of masks by the general public and two schools of thought have emerged on this issue. Asian countries support the use of masks by the general public while the US thinks otherwise. In any case, the unnecessary hoarding of masks has created a shortage for all those healthcare professionals and patients who really need them the most. Hence, it’s best to observe a quarantine and let the masks be used by the people who need them the most.

Myth #6
“Sanitizers are the new lifelines”

Fact: Hand sanitizers are a good alternative for soap and water if you are moving around and find it difficult to access them. Nonetheless, the effectiveness of good old soap and water is unparalleled, and it is advisable to purchase more soap than fret over the shortage of sanitizers.

Myth #7
“You can get infected from products made in China”

Fact: Scientists currently believe that the virus does not survive on hard surfaces for an extended period of time. The evidence uncovered so far indicates that SARS-CoV-2 can survive on different surfaces for a varied amount of time. NIH study indicates that the virus can linger on copper surfaces for 4 hours, upto 24 hours on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. If you have any package still on the way, properly disinfect it with 62-72% alcohol or house bleach with 0.1% sodium hypochlorite to remove any chances of the virus surviving.

There is fear among the masses amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, and rightfully so, but the only remedy against fear is authentic information. Filtering fake news in the internet era is imperative to cope with the pandemic.

We need to make sure that our behavior does not unintentionally score in favor of team pandemic.

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Nimra Khurram is a Biotechnology graduated from Forman Christian College (A Chartered University). She is a Science Communicator at the Khwarizmi Science Society (KSS). Her interests are in the field of early cancer diagnostics, genomics, and synthetic biology.
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