Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. COVID-19 causes those infected to experience mild to severe illness. Whereas most persons will recover without medical intervention or hospital care, older persons, and those with pre-existing and or underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and other such diseases are more at risk for developing serious illness.
COVID-19 has been responsible for millions of infections globally and has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. One of the most important areas of interest around the world has been the call for a vaccine or cure. Fear of contracting the virus and the promotion of various remedies and unapproved methods to prevent or cure the virus has led to many myths and the reporting of unfounded information. Considering this, and reports of the dangerous effects of unapproved medications, unsafe practices, and ingestion of ‘home remedies’, the World Health Organization (WHO) has put out a ‘Myth Busters’ fact sheet. This guide aims to prevent misinformation and to dispel the most common myths emerging worldwide. To protect the health and safety of yourself and your family education about the facts versus myths is important. Some of the most common myths include:
Myth: Drugs can treat or prevent COVID-19
Fact: There are currently no drugs licensed for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. While several drug trials are ongoing, there is currently no proof that hydroxychloroquine or any other drug can cure or prevent COVID-19. The misuse of hydroxychloroquine can cause serious side effects and illness and even lead to death. The WHO is coordinating efforts to develop and evaluate medicines to treat COVID-19.
Myth: Ingestion of bleach and other disinfectants can protect you against contracting COVID-19
Fact: Spraying and introducing bleach or another disinfectant into your body WILL NOT protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous. Do not under any circumstance spray or introduce bleach or any other disinfectant into your body. These substances can be poisonous if ingested and cause irritation and damage to your skin and eyes. Bleach and disinfectant should be used carefully to disinfect surfaces only. Remember to keep chlorine (bleach) and other disinfectants out of reach of children.
Myth: Drinking methanol, ethanol or bleach can cure COVID-19
Fact: Drinking methanol, ethanol or bleach DOES NOT prevent or cure COVID-19 and can be extremely dangerous. Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are poisons. Drinking them can lead to disability and death. Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are sometimes used in cleaning products to kill the virus on surfaces – however you should never drink them. They will not kill the virus in your body, and they will harm your internal organs.
Myth: Cold weather or snow can kill the COVID-19
Fact: Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the new coronavirus. There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather.
Myth: Adding pepper to your food, eating garlic, and drinking alcohol can prevent or cure COVID-19
Fact: Hot peppers in your food, though very tasty, cannot prevent or cure COVID-19. Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus. Frequent or excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of health problems. It is, however, beneficial for your general health to maintain a balanced diet, stay well hydrated, exercise regularly and sleep well.
Myth: Vaccines which protect against pneumonia can protect you from COVID-19
Fact: Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and WHO is supporting their efforts. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.
Myth: Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25°C can prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Fact: You can catch COVID-19, no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported cases of COVID-19.
Myth: COVID-19 can be transmitted through mosquitoes and houseflies
Fact: The new coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquito bites or houseflies. To date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes or houseflies.
Myth: Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort means that you are free from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) or any other lung disease.
Fact: The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are dry cough, tiredness, and fever. Some people may develop more severe forms of the disease, such as pneumonia. The best way to confirm if you have the virus producing COVID-19 disease is with a laboratory test. You cannot confirm it with this breathing exercise, which can even be dangerous.
Myth: Regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help prevent infection with COVID-19
Fact: There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus. There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.
What should you do?
Understanding the best practices to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 is the best way to make the correct choices to protect your health and safety. The WHO recommends the following measures:
- The most effective way to protect yourself against the new coronavirus is by frequently cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing them with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
- Disinfect objects and surfaces, especially the ones you touch regularly. You can use diluted bleach or alcohol for that.
- The virus that causes COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks so it’s important that you also practice respiratory etiquette (for example, by coughing into a flexed elbow).
- Practice physical distancing by keeping at least 1-metre distance from others.
- Recognize the symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, headaches, etc.) early so you can seek prompt medical advice or testing.
- World Health Organization 2020. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters. Available at: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters