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Posted On: 3 March 2020 07:25 pm
Updated On: 12 November 2020 09:10 am

Myth Busting: Common misconceptions about novel coronavirus (COVID-19) debunked [UPDATED]

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COVID-19 is the official name of the new disease caused by the novel coronavirus strain that has not previously been identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for COrona VIrus Disease. Previous terms include 2019-ncov and 2019 novel coronavirus.

The outbreak started in Wuhan, China and because of this outbreak, an overabundance of information has also surfaced, with some of this information false and misleading. The World Health Organization has labeled this as an “infodemic”, making it hard for people to find trustworthy information.

Now that there are reported cases of coronavirus here in Qatar, it's better to be informed and prepared while keeping calm. As of press time, all positive cases are in stable health conditions and undergoing treatment at the Communicable Disease Center.

Here are some common misconceptions about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19):

Myth #1: Eating garlic can help prevent infection

FALSE. While garlic has antimicrobial properties due to allicin, there is no concrete scientific evidence that eating raw garlic can help prevent infection from the new coronavirus.

Myth #2: Only older people can get infected

FALSE. The novel coronavirus can affect everyone, not just older people. However, older people and people with pre-existing conditions (immunocompromised) appear to be the ones who have become severely ill with the virus. Pre-existing conditions refer to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, hypertension, and more.

So far, it appears that children are less at risk and no person under the age of 10 has died from COVID-19, as reported here.

Myth #3: COVID-19 came from bat soup

FALSE. A woman eating bat soup became viral online during the time of the novel coronavirus outbreak causing many to believe that this is the source of the virus. The video was from 2017 and was not filmed in Wuhan, China.

Bats are a potential source/carrier of the new coronavirus but they don't transmit viruses directly to humans. Researchers have not yet been able to determine the intermediary or the true source but initial reports pinpoint the start of the outbreak to a seafood market in Wuhan, China.

Myth #4: Wearing a mask will protect you from infection

The Ministry of Public Health has recently released an infographic about this. It states that wearing a medical mask can help limit the spread of some respiratory diseases. However, MoPH does not currently advise people to wear a mask to reduce the risk of COVID-19. A face mask should only be worn if a healthcare professional recommends it. A face mask should be used by people who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are showing symptoms of the virus. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected.

For the general public who are not sick, the benefit of wearing a medical mask is not clear. It can also give a sense of security but the problem is people who wear masks don't use them properly. N95 masks offer more protection but they only work if they fit properly. What is proven to be more effective is frequent proper handwashing and distancing yourself from sick people.

Basic protective measures: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

When and how to use masks: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks

Myth #5: It's the most dangerous virus

FALSE. There are a number of dangerous viruses in the world that are more deadly than the novel coronavirus like the Ebola virus, Marburg virus, Japanese encephalitis virus, and even Rabies.

The mortality rate of COVID-19 is still changing daily based on the confirmed cases and deaths reported worldwide, but it ranges from 2% to 3.4% currently. See the latest numbers worldwide HERE.

Myth #6: Pets can get infected too [UPDATED]

As of March 5, a pomeranian in Hong Kong tested "weak positive" for the coronavirus but showing no symptoms and is in helathy condition. The dog is owned by a 60-year-old woman who developed symptoms on Feb. 12 and later tested positive for COVID-19, according to The Wall Street Journal.

South China Morning Post reported that the 17-year-old Pomeranian was picked up at the home of a Covid-19 patient on February 26, but samples taken from the animal’s nasal cavity on March 2 still tested positive, according to Dr. Thomas Sit Hon-chung, assistant director of inspection and quarantine at the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department.

According to the doctor, they are also still studying whether the dog could infect other animals.

Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies programme, was quoted in reports of SCMP and CNBC that it is still to be established clearly what part pets or animals might play in further transmission. WHO says it will continue to study this case.

While the Hong Kong Agriculture Department said experts it consulted “unanimously agreed” that the dog in question has a low-level of infection, others point out that additional tests could prove more conclusive, as reported in TIME.

Results of blood tests are still to be released. Updates on this soon.

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INCONCLUSIVE. [UPDATE ABOVE] So far, there is no confirmed positive case of pets/animals contracting COVID-19 and there is also no evidence that they can be infected with it. However, it is always best to wash your hands after touching any animal.

Myth #7: Flu/pneumonia vaccine and antibiotics can help prevent it

FALSE. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 nor a specific antiviral medicine, according to WHO. Antibiotics also will not work as they are used to fight bacterial infections, not viral ones that come from viruses, like COVID-19.

However, according to WHO, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.

Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

WHO also mentioned that vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

The novel coronavirus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine.

Myth #8: Mouth should always be moist, never dry...

FALSE. There have been texts and video circulating online carrying the following message:

Everyone should ensure that their mouth and throat is moist and never dry. Take sips of water every 15 minutes because even if the virus gets into your mouth by drinking water or liquids, it will wash the virus down through your esophagus and into your stomach where your stomach acid will kill the virus.

While drinking enough water every day is recommended, ensuring enough fluid intake is NOT a guarantee that you cannot catch the virus. There is no proven evidence for this claim.

Myth #9: Heat can kill the virus

FALSE. According to WHO, Hand dryers are not effective in killing the novel coronavirus. UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.

There is a message going around that claims "The virus is not heat-resistant and will be killed in an environment of 26-27 degrees. The virus will disappear completely when exposed to the sun."

Public health experts say that right now, this is still unknown. Some viruses are seasonal including respiratory viruses but whether this applies to the novel coronavirus is still not determined.

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The residents of Qatar are advised to be mindful of the information being spread online about the novel coronavirus. Aside from the World Health Organization and Ministry of Public Health websites as the credible sources of information, the Ministry has also set up a dedicated, round-the-clock call center to answer questions and inquiries related to Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).

Call the toll-free hotline: 16000

While the new coronavirus is a unique virus with unique features, containment of the virus is feasible, according to WHO.