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First, it was SARS in 2002. Then it was the swine flu (H1N1) in 2009. Each of these viral outbreaks rose to the level of a pandemic. The virus spread rapidly and caused thousands of deaths worldwide.
Now we’re faced with the novel coronavirus.
COVID-19 (coronavirus disease-19) is caused by the latest incarnation of the coronavirus. This large family of viruses can cause symptoms ranging from minor cold symptoms to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV, identified in 2003).
There’s been a lot of panic surrounding this most current viral outbreak. It’s certainly understandable, considering the number of deaths that have already been attributed to the virus, also known as 2019-nCOV.
But there are also some myths being circulated that just don’t make coping with this pandemic any easier.
We’re going to “bust” several of those myths around the detection, treatment and prevention of the coronavirus with help from the World Health Organization.
That way, you can eliminate them from your “worry list,” and spend more time taking the right steps to protect yourself and your family from infection.
Myths about detection, protection, and treatment of the coronavirus
Myth #1: Thermal scanners can detect people infected with coronavirus.
Yes and no. A thermal scanner is a camera that detects heat in objects and people. Warmer things appear brighter to this camera, including people with high fevers.
But not everyone with the coronavirus develops a fever, and for those who do, it takes between two and ten days for the fever to show itself.
Myth #2: Vaccines against pneumonia can protect you against the new coronavirus.
No, they can’t, although it is advisable to protect yourself against respiratory illnesses like pneumonia, in order to protect your health.
The pneumococcal vaccine that protects against pneumonia, and the Hib vaccine against influenza type B, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus.
Myth #3: Rinsing your nose with saline can help prevent becoming infected with the new coronavirus.
There is no evidence that this is true. However, rinsing with a saline mixture can help some people recover more quickly from a cold.
Myth #4: Eating garlic can help prevent infection with the new coronavirus.
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.
Myth #5: Putting sesame oil on the skin can block the new virus from entering the body.
No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus.
Some people have resorted to spraying alcohol, bleach, or chlorine-based disinfectants on their skin since these can kill the new virus on surfaces like countertops.
But these substances have little or no impact on the virus once it’s entered your body, and it can be dangerous to put them on your skin, and especially bad if they get into the mucous membranes of your eyes or mouth.
Myth #6: Hot air hand dryers will kill the new virus.
No, they won’t. But to protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently wash your hands with soap and water and clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when handwashing is not immediately convenient.
Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.
Myth #7: An ultraviolet (UV) disinfectant lamp can kill the new coronavirus.
No, it can’t. UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin, because UV radiation can cause skin irritation.
Myth #8: It’s now unsafe to receive a letter or package from China.
No, it’s perfectly fine. The coronavirus and similar organisms simply do not survive that long on objects like letters or packages.
Myth #9: My cat or dog can spread the new coronavirus.
So far, there’s no evidence that these animals can be infected with 2019-nCOV. Still, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with your pets.
Myth #10: Only older people can get COVID-19.
People of all ages can be infected with 2019-nCOV. Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, do appear to be more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with the virus.
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- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters — World Health Organization
- Coronavirus — World Health Organization