As the world watches COVID-19 spread in shock and awe, myths and rumors, both point-blank silly and straight-on alarming at once, have surfaced to further tense up the situation. Amid the panic and uncertainty, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) remains the most reliable and up-to-date source of authentic information, virus transmission, and safety and travel recommendations.
Public health care experts advise abstaining from spreading misconceptions and misinformation, which are spreading faster than the actual outbreak that has hitherto reached 65 countries, to avoid global panic.
A map of countries where confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported. —CDC
Here are some of the most common myths about novel 2019-CoV that science has debunked:
The Novel Coronavirus was Bio-Engineered in a Lab
Ever since the epidemic started, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) has been under attack for allegedly engineering the virus and (perhaps purposely or unknowingly) unleashing the plague locally and globally. Starting with Wuhan seafood market as the most probable source of virus transmission, the conspiracy theorists soon aimed guns at WIV accusing the institute for being the mastermind behind the deadly virus.
Sensing the ravenous conspiracy, the lab immediately released the statement separating fact from fiction. The institute is the Level-4 certified lab with the highest safety protocols approved by the CDC, they said.
Scientists have also strongly rebuffed the conspiracy about the origin of the virus. In a letter published in The Lancet, a group of 27 public health scientists have busted the myth that coronavirus is manmade by citing several studies that found an undeniable genetic similarity of coronavirus with emerging pathogens.
COVID-19 Only Kills Elderly and Immunocompromised
Although elderly population aged 65 and above has so far been the favorite target of COVID-19, this claim is far from truth. In February this year, coronavirus took the life of a 29-year-old hospital director in Wuhan Wuchang Hospital. In January, the 34-year-old whistleblower scientist who first raised alarm about the deadly virus, succumbed to virus-induced pneumonia and organ failure.
The infection can lead to a serious infection in all age groups, particularly health workers who are constantly exposed to the patients. Travelers to and from the affected country can also unknowingly carry the virus.
Symptoms of coronavirus. —CDC
However, this is not to deny the fact that elderly people with a compromised immune system and concomitant health conditions, such as asthma, bronchitis and COPD, are at an increased risk of opportunistic infection, of which 2019-CoV is one.
Antibiotics Can Treat Coronavirus
CDC says that antibiotics are only for bacterial infections and we are talking about a virus here. Antibiotics can neither prevent nor cure COVID-2019. However, antivirals may come in handy to quell the pneumonic infection that has grappled the world with fear.
An experimental antiviral drug, remedisver, has shown efficacy against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) CoV in macaques. The researchers noticed that the drug that prevented as well as mitigated the effects of infection in monkeys can also be the possible choice-of-drug for coronavirus infections in humans. However, the bad news is that the drug is in the early phase of the trials, it will be years before it can be available for prescription use.
Face Masks Prevent Infection
Viruses are tiny organisms, so small you can’t even view them through an ordinary microscope. They are visible under the electron microscope only that magnifies the sample by 100 times. A virus is 1,000 times smaller than bacteria and your fingertip has more than 1,500 bacteria per square inch.
An average dust mask has a pore size between 16-51 micron (particle size), bacteria are usually between 0.3-60µ; dust particles range from 3-300 µ, and flu virus is so tiny, it is only 0.17µ.
The U.S. Surgeon General has also asked people not to buy masks as they are not much helpful:
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
An ordinary face mask is ineffective against COVID-2019. CDC recommends N95 for flu and influenza, swine and avian viruses. Even N95 and N100 masks cannot filter out the flu virus but it is critical to understand that the virus is not motile as it does not float in the air.
In a series of tweets, the Surgeon General has laid out the danger of the disease and what steps should be taken to ensure the safety of your loved ones and yourself.
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) March 1, 2020
CDC has clearly stated on its site that the virus spreads from one person to another upon contact or inhalation of droplets hanging in the air. Walking around in the town wearing the mask does not make any difference. Masks provide protection only when you are in the close vicinity of the affected patient.
Current understanding is #COVID19 spreads mostly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when a person coughs or sneezes, similar to how flu spreads. Learn more at https://t.co/VvIzx7O3mM pic.twitter.com/MiHHHyCfTa
— CDC (@CDCgov) March 1, 2020
Some people in the US will be at increased risk of #COVID19 depending on their exposures. The greatest risk is to those who are in close contact with people with COVID-19. People with suspected or confirmed exposure should reach out to their healthcare provider.
— CDC (@CDCgov) February 29, 2020
The best protection against coronavirus remains maintaining at least six-foot distance from the person coughing or sneezing, washing hands before eating and avoiding repeatedly touching eyes, nose and mouth.