5 common Coronavirus myths that need to be debunked

*This article has been updated in light of recent findings.

There’s something spreading more virally than the coronavirus itself and it has, arguably, even more caustic implications: misinformation. An investigation by the US State Department discovered that there were a whopping 2 million Tweets propagating Coronavirus conspiracy theories during a three-week period between January 20 and February 10, according to The Washington Post.

The alleged cures are wide-ranging and increasingly ludicrous; some of the latest include eating garlic, masturbation, cocaine use, and drinking bleach. Obviously, no one should adopt any of these ‘cures’ unless, as Trevor Noah quipped in a recent segment of The Daily Show, “you want to kick-off the most rock-n-roll party of your life.”

This isn’t to downplay the severity of the spread of COVID-19. As of today, there are 182,555 live cases, over 4,000 of which are dispersed throughout the USA. Of these 4,000+ cases, there have been 71 fatalities. While the disease is highly contagious, the myths about the virus’ containment and suggested preventive measures are largely a result of mass hysteria, catalyzed by the nature of media. In a world where ‘fake news’ has become the MO of Twitter fiends, it pays to let your decisions be informed by reputable sources alone. 

Here are a few myths about coronavirus you should squash immediately: 

1. Myth: The virus is projected to kill off 65 million people

Yes, the virus is spreading quickly, but the assumption that it will cause a death count that high is unfounded, and doesn’t consider methods of containment. The rumor started after a John Hopkins research center ran an“exercise” that tried to mimic the global response to a pandemic. Most have misinterpreted the study and attributed its predictions to the potential death toll of an outbreak similar to the novel Coronavirus. In other words, this particular study did not have a relation to the Coronavirus at all; it was merely a scenario that seemed similar to what we’re experiencing with the Coronavirus now. 

While it’s still too early to gauge the mortality rate for the disease, as of March 3 the WHO estimates a 3.4% mortality rate.

2. Myth: You should wear a mask at all times

The CDC has urged against healthy, unaffected Americans to refrain from using face masks. In fact, according to US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the masks could actually exacerbate the potential for infection if they aren’t worn properly. If you’ve bought into the preventative mask craze and have tried to buy a mask yourself, you probably noticed that they are either sold out everywhere, or the prices have soared astronomically. US officials have warned the public not to hoard masks, as doing so poses a threat to those who are most in need of the masks. 

The only people who should be wearing the masks are those who actually have the virus, those caring for an infected patient, and, of course, health care workers.

3. Myth: The virus can be killed with heat 

For those who see hope on the quickly approaching summer heat ahead, think again.

This assumption isn’t totally off the grid — some viruses, such as the flu, tend to spread more rapidly during colder months, but that does not mean that they cease entirely when weather conditions become warmer in the spring and summer months.

The same goes for artificial heat sources, namely hand dryers. According to WHO, the heat from a hand dryer cannot kill the virus.

The WHO also discounted UV lamps as a stand-in virus eradication method. It is far more likely to be public health interventions rather than warmer weather that will slow its dispersal. 

4. Myth: You’ll know if you have it

Some people are asymptomatic, making detection of the virus particularly challenging. COVID-19 causes a range of symptoms, many of which mimic the flu or the common cold. Common symptoms of COVID-19 may include fever and difficulty breathing; rarer symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and a runny nose. Early on, however, infected people may not exhibit any symptoms.

5. Myth: Coronavirus symptoms are just like the flu

To muddle the waters, even more, the coronavirus pandemic has hit right about the time flu season sets in. Symptoms of the new coronavirus are similar to that of the common flu, including a cough, fever, body aches, and fatigue. Unlike the flu, coronavirus sufferers may also experience shortness of breath. Before a slight temperature sets you off into a state of panic, err on the side of cool-headedness and rationality. You’re more likely to have the flu than COVID-19.

“That said, it is around two percent on average, which is about 20 times higher than for the seasonal flu lineages currently in circulation,” Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College London reported to Science Alert. While the coronavirus may have a higher death rate than the flu, it is still relatively low at 3.4.

When a state of mass hysteria sets in, like all things in life, it’s wise to keep level-headed. Amidst a sea of propagated misinformation, stick to reliable sources. There are very little things you can do to prevent becoming afflicted by the coronavirus, other than take all the necessary precautions.