There’s nothing like a global pandemic to put the internet into overdrive. In this age of social media, credible facts can often be buried beneath increasing amounts of sensational fake news. With an ever-growing wealth of coronavirus-related information online, it’s becoming more and more difficult to spot the COVID-19 myths from the truths.
The best way to stay safe from the virus is to remain as knowledgeable as possible. That’s why we’ve busted some of the most common coronavirus myths that have been circulating online.
Myth: “wearing face masks is pointless”
Busted: Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been countless contradicting forms of advice regarding face masks. While it became mandatory to wear masks in many Asian countries, US citizens were warned that masks were ineffective in slowing down the spread of the virus.
However, in light of new evidence, advice has shifted. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that face masks should always be worn in places where social distancing is not possible.
So, why should we wear masks? Research suggests that masks are, in fact, effective in slowing down the spread. The main reason for this is that asymptomatic people are able to pass on the virus through large droplets that are expelled when they cough, sneeze, talk, or even breathe. This means that in order to slow down community-based transmission, all citizens should make the conscientious decision to wear a mask in public so as to protect others from themselves.
Myth: “young people don’t need to worry about contracting the virus”
Busted: Back when the coronavirus seemed like a distant problem that was only affecting China and its neighbors, this was a very common myth in the west. While older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions do appear to become more seriously ill, COVID-19 does not discriminate. Anyone of any age can contract the virus, including children.
Young people without underlying health issues are not immune to the virus, although their symptoms may be less severe. Therefore, in order to slow down the spread, young people with mild symptoms must comply with social distancing guidelines so as not to spread the virus to society’s most vulnerable.
Myth: “COVID-19 is no worse than the flu”
Busted: At the start of the outbreak, when little was known about SARS-CoV02, the virus seemed to have many similarities with the seasonal flu. For example, the symptoms of the flu include aches, a cough, and a fever. In most cases the symptoms are mild but the flu can sometimes become severe and lead to pneumonia. In rare cases, it can be deadly.
The mortality rate of the two also seemed to be similar at first look. However, further research has concluded that the profile of COVID-19 is more serious than the flu. Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) have estimated that the coronavirus could be as much as 10 times more deadly than the flu.
Myth: “5G mobile networks are to blame for the spread”
Busted: This has become a popular myth amongst conspiracy theory enthusiasts. Wuhan was one of the first cities in China to roll out 5G, which might help to explain the origin of this myth. The controversial theory has even caused YouTube to announce that they will take down any videos that link the spread of coronavirus with 5G.
Fortunately, it’s an easy myth to bust. Viruses simply do not travel on radio waves or mobile networks. There is no evidence to support any correlation between 5G and coronavirus, especially because the virus has continued to spread in countries that have little to no 5G coverage, such as Iran.
Instead, the virus works by spreading through respiratory, airborne, and surface transmission.
Myth: “consuming/injecting bleach can kill the virus”
Busted: It’s extremely important to know that this is a very dangerous myth, and is in no way based on fact. Consuming or injecting any kind of household disinfectant is poisonous. It can have a very damaging effect on internal organs and can be fatal.
The popularity of this myth was not helped by Donald Trump’s suggestion that injecting disinfectants into the body could be a possible cure. This sparked outrage among many health experts around the globe.
Using bleach on surfaces can kill the virus. Consuming or injecting bleach can kill you.
Myth: “drinking alcohol can help prevent the virus”
Busted: This is another very dangerous myth. Excessive alcohol consumption is never a good idea, and it actually weakens the immune system. It can also lead to more health problems that would put heavy drinkers in the high-risk category. So instead of drinking alcohol to prevent the virus, it could reduce the body’s ability to fight it.
Due to the popularity of this myth, the WHO released a statement advising people against consuming high-strength alcohol: “consuming any alcohol poses health risks, but consuming high-strength ethyl alcohol (ethanol), particularly if it has been adulterated with methanol, can result in severe health consequences, including death.”
Alternatively, diluted alcohol can, and should, be used to regularly disinfect surfaces.
Myth: “medicinal treatment and prevention is available”
Busted: Another myth that Donald Trump has pushed into the limelight is that hydroxychloroquine is a proven cure. He recently announced that he was taking the anti-malarial drug regularly to prevent the virus.
There is currently no proof that hydroxychloroquine can cure or prevent COVID-19. This drug can have serious side effects when used for the wrong reasons, and can lead to death.
While there are some drug trials ongoing, it’s important to know that there are currently no drugs licensed for the treatment or prevention of this virus.
How to Stay Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Part of staying safe while the coronavirus pandemic rages on is knowing what information to trust and what to ignore. This can be difficult to do with 24-hour rolling news and constant social media updates. So, it can be advisable to limit your news intake to an hour or two per day and to ensure that you are only engaging with trustworthy sources.