The coronavirus pandemic has swept across the world at wildfire speed and has effectively crippled economies and changed daily life, as we know it. In conjunction with this rapidly spreading pandemic, we have been overwhelmed with the sudden flood of around the clock news updates, scientific studies, graphs and figures, reports of no vaccines or effective treatments and oftentimes, immediate and drastic change of government policies.
Consequently, this scare and reality of Coronavirus/COVID-19 have led to many people seeking out information and remedies, on their own, from not so reliable or reputable sources. As a human, I admit that it can be terrifying to accept that we do not currently have an effective vaccine or treatment for this newly emerged, and highly contagious virus and, I can appreciate that everyone is therefore motivated to do what they can to try to save themselves and their family. However, many people are harming themselves, and even dying, from actions that they are taking, in response to this fear itself and, not from actual coronavirus infection or COVID-19 disease. That is because some people are falling victim to harmful pseudoscience disguised as remedies and cures which, their proponents baselessly claim have been ignored by mainstream medicine. That, of course, is untrue!
As a rigorously trained Physician-Scientist who was also raised in a culture that incorporates herbs and food into medical healing, I will be the first to tell you that medicine and science are constantly looking for all avenues to help enhance and boost health. We conduct studies and examine the evidence for safety and effectiveness. Unfortunately, we cannot escape the internet circus from feeding us with dark memes, shameless myths and conspiracy theories that only escalate the fear and misinformation amongst the public. I don’t believe that this collective trauma is healthy for anybody; especially when we are struggling through this pandemic. With that said, my caution to you is that some things that you encounter on the internet, social media and messaging apps can sound like they are based in fact and science but the truth is, many are totally made up experiments/data being peddled to you by people with questionable or no science, health or medical background. If you are not careful and critical of what you read and believe, their ignorance and pseudoscience will kill YOU!
Additionally, I appreciate that some people have mistrust of traditional medicine and science but believe me when I say that no one went through medical school and training for as long as I and my colleagues have, only to come out and lie to you! Doctors are not hiding any miracle treatments or cures from you. We are trying to stay alive too! We would not know that there’s a proven cure for coronavirus/COVID-19 and refuse to implement it.
In this article, let’s debunk the most common myths surrounding the Coronavirus and demystify what is true and what is not. Read on.
Myth 1: No cough, no fever — hence I don’t have the virus.
I’ve seen lots of people going crazy over the symptoms like an isolated cough and a slight rise in body temperature that does not meet the threshold for a fever. It is also alarming to see those prying eyes whenever you cough or sneeze in public; making you feel like the “patient zero” of the virus. For everyone, please know that symptoms are varied and not limited to coughs and fevers. Likewise, in order to determine a fever, one needs to check their temperature! In medicine, a fever is defined as a temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. I understand that the fear of anyone with a cough or report of a warmer body temperature likely came from these two symptoms being the most common ones mentioned in the news, but people showing less common symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and loss of taste and smell can also be a carrier of the virus. Plus, most carriers, approximately 80% percent of people who test positive for the virus, have no symptoms at all! Hence, we really cannot simply determine anyone’s coronavirus status just by whether or not they have a cough and or a mild elevation in body temperature.
It is also important to remember that most people who caught the virus will only show mild symptoms approximately three to five days after being infected, but in some cases, it can take up to 15 days, or never, to show symptoms. Be warned.
Myth 2: The virus would subside when the weather warms up.
Here’s the truth, rising temperatures won’t bring the virus spread to a halt. Although this is true for influenza, which slumps over summer periods, coronavirus does not seem to have the same characteristics as influenza. As a matter of fact, some viruses do not vary seasonally, at all. This virus is expected to continue to infect more people on a global scale, regardless of its seasonality. Furthermore, many hot climate countries in the world are currently struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks. Finally, to this point, the SARS-Cov-2 coronavirus is a brand-new virus, meaning people haven’t really built up an immunity to it and we do not yet have effective vaccines or treatments for it.
Myth 3: Vaccines against pneumonia also protect against the COVID-19 virus.
Pneumonia is caused by a multitude of viruses and bacteria. While we have vaccines for certain types of bacterial pneumonia, we do not have one for everything that causes pneumonia. Additionally, more specifically, most vaccines lack cross coverage; meaning, vaccines for one type of infection do not typically provide protection for another type of infectious agent. In fact, Scientists, including immunologists and virologists, are currently studying and characterizing the immune response of people who have recovered from SARS-Cov-2 infection and COVID-19 disease to gain insight into what will be needed for an effective vaccine against the virus. This is how science works! Ultimately, before an effective vaccine can be made available to all people, a series of trials and studies will have to be conducted and that takes time. The extensive process needed to produce, test, and launch a vaccine, even in an expedited fashion, will take 12–24 months. For now, since the vaccine isn’t available yet, make sure to stay home, wash your hands, eat a healthy diet, take your multivitamins to help boost your immune system, wear a mask if you must go out and stay at least 6-feet (2 meters) away from other people.
Myth 4: Some Do It Yourself (DIY) home remedies can fight against the virus
It is normal for everyone to devise some DIY remedies in order to survive what they perceive to be the ‘plague’, but a virus remedy isn’t just a random home-made recipe. If you’ve read that gargling with vinegar or hot tea will kill the virus, or that inhaling very hot steam will kill the virus before it enters your cells, you’re absolutely wrong! It’s true that some home remedies might ease your symptoms and thus, help you feel better, but these have no real bearing on the actual virus itself. As mentioned on the earlier point, there is no available vaccine or effective treatment for SARS-Cov-2 virus, yet. Viruses are obligate microbes, which means they must enter a cell in order to replicate. They do not hang around waiting to infect a cell! Steam is not killing the virus and neither is the limited vitamin C from lemon water or vinegar. The truth is that four out of every five 5 people who become infected with the virus will never have symptoms and so, for those people, they will feel like their steam, vinegar or lemon water worked.
Of course, I am not saying that you should not continue making some DIY potions with vitamin C, Zinc, honey, citrus fruits and turmeric, to keep yourself busy, help you sleep and calm your anxiety, but please know that none of these do anything to the virus, if you are infected. In general, the premise of these homemade/herbal remedies is based upon zero scientific evidence or backing for killing the virus or curing COVID-19 disease. Additionally, please know that boiling alcohol or water to drink or inhale is dangerous and will cause burns and maybe even a household fire that can harm you and your family! Spraying yourself with household bleach or disinfectants is also dangerous and should never be done. Even more importantly, do not wash or spray food with bleach or disinfectants… that is how you poison yourself!
Myth 5: Covering up with DIY masks and gloves will keep you from contracting the virus
We’ve all seen the news concerning the dramatic increase of sales for paper masks and gloves — putting the rest to anxiety of not being able to purchase anything. We’ve all seen the memes across the internet about people wearing everything from face masks to full-face helmets forged from recycled materials.
Do any of these preventive efforts work? Unfortunately, not completely. Although it is crucial to proceed with caution, some of these dramatic efforts to cover up your face and body may lead to potential suffocation risk.
Even surgical masks, not N95 masks, provide limited help as they were designed to mostly keep droplets in and of course, must be changed frequently. Also, wearing gloves can lead to a decrease in good hygiene as it inspires false confidence of not washing hands. To keep yourself clean and sanitized, wash your hands regularly with soap and water or a 60%-alcohol based sanitizer. Do not touch your face and keep your surroundings clean.
Myth 6: The 5G Radiation Poisoning
A conspiracy theory that radiation from 5G towers causes the inception of coronavirus is spreading across the internet resulting in widespread terror regardless of its groundless premise. The posts go on to include a series of falsified claims about the conspiracy theory while denying the reality of the virus. Luckily, numerous scientists have dismissed the baseless claims about the 5G wireless technology causing COVID-19 like symptoms. In truth, 5G, like 4G and other iterations of cellular communications systems, uses an electromagnetic waveform that emits non-ionising radiation. Thus, there is no proof that it actually causes diseases such COVID-19, cancer, infertility or anything else.
The World Health Organization (WHO) also debunked the theory saying that no adverse health effects have been established due to exposure to 5G wireless technology. In addition, a myriad number of studies have been conducted over the last decades to assess its potential health risks. Truth be told, coronavirus/COVID-19 symptoms can be found in detail on official health organization and government sites and when compared, they bear no similarity or impact to possible health effects stemming from 5G or mobile phone use. Do your research and don’t just share a meme!
Myth 7: Some Ethnic Groups are Immune to Coronavirus Infection and COVID-19 Disease
This is patently untrue. People from every racial, ethnic and cultural background, on all of the inhabited continents have been afflicted with coronavirus/COVID-19 and it spreads in the same way, within all of those communities. Do not fall into a false sense of reassurance because you are in one ethnic group or another or because you live in a certain geographic region. Viruses do NOT discriminate. Protect yourself and heed the health and safety warnings!
Myth 8: People with certain Blood Types are Immune to Coronavirus infection
This is not true. Preliminary studies done in China show no statistical difference in risk of infection or development of COVID-19 disease amongst patients with different blood groups! Again, do not believe the hype. Protect yourself!
Okay, so the 8 points mentioned above covered the most common myths that are currently circulating about the coronavirus. In these trying times, where the Pandemic is still raging, we must not let ourselves get consumed by misinformation and false campaigns that would only lead to unnecessary risks and further burden our already strained health systems.
The dangers of sharing and believing unverified information, amidst this crisis, can have serious effects on the physical and mental health of others. Therefore, it’s essential to keep ourselves educated and informed, as responsible citizens. Please, stop believing these dangerous hacks and remedies for coronavirus. Hear me when I say that the last thing you want right now is for you, or a loved one, to be admitted to the hospital, for treatment of facial or other burns, poisoning or organ failure because you tried out a remedy that ‘sounded’ like it could be scientific; simply due to them having included some sciencey sounding words!