Novel Coronavirus outbreak: Myths about Covid-19 from around the world, debunked

A new form of coronavirus has caused a pandemic across the world. The rapid spread of the virus has been accompanied by an equally rapid spread of myths and half-information about the novel coronavirus. In this report, we take a look at some of the most widely shared myths about Covid-19

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A cop in Chennai wearing a helmet depicting coronavirus
A cop in Chennai wearing a helmet depicting coronavirus (Photo Credits: PTI)

The novel coronavirus pandemic has become one of the gravest health crises faced by humanity in recent times. The pandemic has been caused by a new form of coronavirus that was unknown to scientists until just months ago. And so, along with the virus's spread across the growth, myths about the contagion, treatments for the Covid-19 disease and preventive steps to keep yourself safe from the novel coronavirus have proliferated.

It is very important to refrain from placing your belief in any miraculous cures or conspiracy theories about Covid-19. And so, in this report we take a look at some widely shared myths about the novel coronavirus and weight their standing on the scale of scientific relevance. Use the links below to navigate:

Myth 1: Temperature, humidity could affect transmission rate of Covid-19

Myth 2: Wearing a mask can prevent transmission of Covid-19

Myth 3: Taking a hot bath can prevent infection

Myth 4: Drinking alcohol can cure Covid-19

Myth 5: Non-vegetarian food (meat) consumption can lead to infection

Myth 6: Holding breath for 10 seconds acts as test for Covid-19

Myth 7: Visit a hospital if you are experiencing cough, high fever

Myth 8: Garlic boosts the immunity system

Myth 9: Donating blood can result in Covid-19 testing

Myth 10: Mosquito bites can fast track transmission

Myth 11: Hand dryers/ ultraviolet disinfection lamp can kill the virus

Myth 12: Vaccines against pneumonia protect against novel coronavirus

Myth 13: Parcels from China can spread Covid-19

Myth 14: Thermal scanners can detect novel coronavirus

Myth 15: Novel coronavirus affects only elderly, not young people

MYTH: Temperature, humidity could affect transmission rate of Covid-19

Truth: This is a myth. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has observed that this infection can be transmitted in any and all areas regardless of climate.

MYTH: Wearing a mask can prevent transmission of Covid-19

Truth: Initially, the popular advice on masks was that it should be worn only by those infected by the novel coronavirus or those caring for them. However, health bodies -- including India's Ministry of Health -- have revised their positions over time and advised people to wear masks (mostly homemade) when they step out of their home. There is no scientific eveidence that masks -- especially those made at home -- protect the wearer from the novel coronavirus. However, there is evidence that masks can prevent an asymptomatic patient of Covid-19 from unwittingly spreading the virus. That is why government bodies have revised their advice on wearing masks.

MYTH: Taking a hot bath can prevent infection

Truth: This is a myth. The normal body temperature remains stable between 36.5°C to 37°C despite the temperature of one's bath, says the WHO.

MYTH: Drinking alcohol can cure Covid-19

Truth: There is no evidence whatsoever to prove this claim. While alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a recommended precaution against any virus, drinking alcohol while seeking to cure Covid-19 is the same as drinking alcohol-based hand sanitizer and expecting it to taste like a pint of beer.

MYTH: Non-vegetarian food (meat) consumption can lead to infection

Truth: It has been established that the novel coronavirus jumped species from an animal to a man and is originally a zoonotic disease. However, no known animal species has been known to carry this virus as of yet and medical experts have asked people not to believe in rumours and eat non-vegetarian meals as long as they are prepared with utmost care for hygiene.

MYTH: Holding breath for 10 seconds acts as test for Covid-19

Truth: This is a myth. Dr Faheem Younus, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland says that a person infected with the novel coronavirus can also hold his/her breath for longer than 10 seconds. On the other hand, the elderly will not be able to accomplish this task but it does not in any way mean that they are infected.

MYTH: Visit a hospital if you are experiencing cough, high fever

Truth: Director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria says that one should not visit a hospital during a pandemic since it increases the chances of a healthy person catching the virus. One should consult a doctor over the phone if he/she is experiencing any symptoms at all and seek future course of action.

MYTH: Garlic boosts the immunity system

Truth: This is a myth. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the consumption of garlic boosts the immunity system or safeguards one from being infected with Covid-19.

MYTH: Donating blood can result in Covid-19 testing

Truth: This is untrue. One should not donate blood at a time like this unless and until one is absolutely sure that he/she is not infected.

WATCH | AIIMS top doc busts five common coronavirus myths

MYTH: Mosquito bites can fast track transmission

Truth: This is a myth. No study or research has shown that mosquitoes can act as carriers of the novel coronavirus. "The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose," says WHO.

MYTH: Hand dryers/ ultraviolet disinfection lamp can kill the virus

Truth: These are myths. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one should regularly wash one's hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Apart from this, neither a hand dryer nor an ultraviolet disinfection lamp can kill the virus.

MYTH: Vaccines against pneumonia protect against novel coronavirus

Truth: This is a myth. Pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine cannot protect anyone from Covid-19 since the vaccine for the new coronavirus is yet to be discovered.

MYTH: Parcels from China can spread Covid-19

Truth: This is untrue. While some preliminary research has shown that the novel coronavirus remains on certain surfaces such as cardboard for some time, it cannot spread through parcels received from China.

MYTH: Thermal scanners can detect novel coronavirus

Truth: This is not entirely true. A thermal scanner detects body temperature and is great for identifying someone with a high fever, however, medical experts and doctors treating Covid-19 patients have said that initial research shows how people who display no symptoms can also be infected with the virus.

MYTH: Novel coronavirus affects only elderly, not young people

Truth: This is untrue. The transmission of novel coronavirus has been seen in people of all ages. Doctors suggest that people with co-morbid conditions such as blood pressure, heart or respiratory diseases are at a higher risk if they get infected with Covid-19. However, a perfectly healthy person can also be infected in the presence of a Covid-19 patient.

(Update on April 15, 2020: The section on wearing masks has been updated to reflect new information and changes in advisories issued by countries including India)

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