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Busting The Myths Surrounding COVID-19


Dr. Alfredo Carpineti

Senior Staff Writer & Space Correspondent

clockMar 17 2020, 17:43 UTC


Social media on any given day is often ripe with misinformation, something that it is always damaging but has the potential to become deadly in the current situation. The World Health Organization (WHO) and many other national and regional groups and health bodies have put together myth-busting lists based on the questions people have been asking and addressing some of the wrong advice and information circulating online.

First off, there is still currently no vaccine, and though treatments are being tested, it may be a way off before we get one. The most important things we can do to protect ourselves and others are self-isolating, social distancing, and frequently washing our hands with soap and water (out and about, hand sanitizer is more convenient, but at home soap and water does a more thorough job).


MYTH: COVID-19 Is No Worse Than The Seasonal Flu Or A Cold

COVID-19 is worse than seasonal flu and colds and a lot more deadly. The mortality rate for the seasonal flu is less than 0.1 percent, while current WHO data put COVID-19 mortality rates at between 3-4 percent.

This myth is a persistent one and has spread significantly in the West, where it has been promoted by politicians, celebrities, and influencers. SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19, doesn’t affect everyone equally, and many people may not experience any symptoms. This means you may have the virus even if you do not feel ill, and you could easily spread it to someone vulnerable – those with underlying health issues, weakened immune systems, the elderly etc – who could die of it. The seasonal flu vaccine each year helps provide herd immunity to protect those people. As mentioned, COVID-19 has no vaccine yet.


A new study, published in Science this week, has shown how people in China with low or non-existent symptoms of the virus were responsible for a large number of infections. This is why it is important to avoid unnecessary outings, even if you feel fine.


MYTH: Hot Weather/Cold Weather Kills SARS-CoV-2

The virus can survive in both hot weather and cold weather; you can see how it has spread worldwide without much holding it back. At first, the distribution of cases appeared to be concentrated in temperate zones, which started speculation that the virus could only survive outside the human body in a certain range of temperatures, but as the pandemic has spread this has become obvious it's not the case. 

MYTH: The Virus Is Transmitted By Mosquitos

The virus is a respiratory pathogen spreading primarily through droplets produced by an infected person coughing or sneezing, as well as saliva. These droplets can also survive on surfaces for hours, potentially days, so regularly wipe down your countertops, door handles, electronic devices etc and throw away your tissues immediately. There is no evidence to suggest it spreads through mosquitos or other parasites (or your pets).


MYTH: I Must Wear A Mask At All Times

You don’t need to wear a mask constantly. If you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with a suspected SARS-CoV-2 infection. If you yourself are coughing and sneezing and are in contact with people, do wear a mask. It's important to note, masks are only effective if you are also frequently washing your hands.

MYTH: You Should Spray Yourself With Chlorine/Alcohol Or Use UV Lamps To Kill The Virus

Please do not do any of these. A lot of antibacterial products used to sterilize surfaces have irritants that can harm the skin. UV lamps can cause burns. Reports sunbathing will kill the virus are just wishful thinking. Washing your hands with soap and water is enough to kill bacteria and viruses. You can use an alcohol-based hand rub on top to be extra thorough, but due to their scarcity these days, perhaps just use them when you're out and about for convenience, rather than at home.


MYTH: Garlic Kills The Virus

Seriously, guys! SARS-CoV-2 is not a vampire. Garlic is not a protection against pathogens (but god, would that it was. As an Italian, I would be invincible!). Unfortunately, the delicious seasoning has no special powers against the virus or the disease. Use it to make delicious food, not home remedies.

MYTH: Masturbation Protects You From COVID-19

Despite limited studies claiming that self-love increases the immune system, masturbation doesn’t somehow magically protect you from COVID-19. But you know what, staying at home and masturbating actually makes you less likely to go out and catch and spread the disease, so in a way, it does help.


Just... wash your hands afterwards.

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