COVID-19: Common Myths And Misconceptions

Fake news always spreads faster than fact. In light of the COVID-19 outbreak in South Africa, we have seen an endless amount of information being spread about the virus over social media. However, these sources are not always reliable. Here are just some of the common myths and misconceptions circling the web about the new coronavirus.

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1. COVID-19 cannot be spread in areas with hot or humid climates

False. COVID-19 has been shown to spread in all climates, including hot and humid areas. There is similarly no evidence to suggest that the virus cannot survive in snow conditions or extremely cold weather. According to the World Health Organisation, you can contract the coronavirus no matter how hot or cool it is. Exposing yourself to temperatures higher than 25° C or excess sun exposure will also not prevent you from catching the virus. As we know, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to maintain good hygiene and physical distancing.

2. COVID-19 is a biological / technological weapon

False. There have been many claims made about COVID-19 being engineered in a laboratory to be used as a biological weapon. Furthermore, there is no truth to the conspiracy theory pertaining to the introduction of 5G and the outbreak of the coronavirus. Scientists conclude that the virus most likely mutated from an existing virus found in bats, then passed through an intermediary animal and onto humans.

3. There is a vaccine for the virus

False. There is no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus yet. It has been estimated that it will take been 12 – 18 months to develop a vaccine that is safe and effective in humans. There is also no truth to the idea that other kinds of vaccines, such as the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, will prevent a person from contracting the coronavirus. However, these vaccines may assist in lessening severe respiratory symptoms should you contract the virus, and are thus recommended for the elderly, health care workers and other vulnerable populations.

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4. Drinking hot water and eating raw garlic will protect you from the virus

False. While home remedies such as drinking hot lemon water with honey or eating raw garlic are wonderful for soothing cold and flu-like ailments, they cannot protect you against the new coronavirus. Similarly, gargling with salt water or drinking alcohol will not flush the virus from your system. There is no reason not to dose up on vitamin supplements and to increase your fresh fruit and vegetable intake for a good immune boost, but in truth there is little proof that this will protect you from contracting the virus.

5. If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have COVID-19

False. There is no self test you can admit to determine whether you have COVID-19 or not. Holding your breath for 10 seconds without discomfort is certainly not advised if you feel the onset of symptoms, which include shortness of breath, fever and fatigue. Contact your doctor or the National COVID-19 hotline instead to seek advice and further instruction.

6. You can transmit the virus to your pets

Possibly. The CDC has confirmed that COVID-19 is zoontonic, meaning that it can spread between humans and animals in some cases. However, it is important to note that it is unlikely that your household pet will be able to infect you with the virus. But, there have been a few reported cases of dogs, cats and tigers contracting the virus from people with COVID-19. If you feel ill or have tested positive for the virus it is best to distance yourself from your pets, as difficult as it may be. If possible, get someone else to look after them while you remain in isolation. Alternatively, make sure to always wash your hands before and after interacting with your pet.

7. Only older people are susceptible to the coronavirus

False. The virus can infect a person of any age. However, older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. It is important to keep in mind that at least 80% of people who contract the coronavirus will experience mild symptoms and will make a full recovery. It is not yet known whether a person may become re-infected with the virus once they have recovered.

8. You should not take ibuprofen to treat COVID-19 symptoms

Possibly. In mid-March, WHO made a statement advising people to avoid taking ibuprofen to treat symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever. The organisation has since retracted this statement due to a lack of conclusive evidence proving that ibuprofen can worsen respiratory symptoms. Until such evidence is found, it may be worthwhile sticking to taking paracetamol to treat COVID-19 related fever symptoms, however, there is no specific recommended medication to treat the virus as yet. Please consult with a medical professional before taking medication.

9. You should stockpile food, toiletries and medication

False. Panic buying has been one of the worst consequences of the rapid spread of fake news. President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the issue of food shortage in his national address on Monday, 23 March 2020, saying that there is no need to empty the stores of stock. Buy enough to last you a week at a time and please consider others, especially the elderly, before clearing out shelves. If you are anxious about running out of toilet paper in particular, check out this handy calculator.

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10. We should all wear masks and latex gloves when in public

Masks? Yes. The Government has stated that all citizens should wear cloth face masks when out in public. Remember to not touch your mask with unclean hands and to wash it with soap and water after each use.

Gloves? Possibly. There is much debate around the effectiveness of latex gloves in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Gloves pose a potential risk of increased infection if handled incorrectly. Do not touch your face while wearing gloves and always discard of used gloves. There is a severe shortage of these supplies for medical staff as well, so if possible please only wear them if you are caring for someone who is ill or are ill yourself. 

Have you come across any other harmful COVID-19 myths on social media? Let us know about them and please remember to always check facts before sharing information. Anyone sharing fake news is liable for prosecution.