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COVID-19 myths debunked

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

With so much information circling about the novel coronavirus, it’s hard to know what to believe.

Bayhealth Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Farida Malik hopes to clear up some of the false information with facts listed below. Her information comes from expert sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization  and trusted medical journals.

MYTH: COVID-19 is no worse than the seasonal flu.

FACT: While both flu and COVID-19 are spread through droplets in the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks, there are a few significant differences that make COVID-19 more likely to spread and cause more severe illness.

A person infected with COVID-19 will further infect two to two-and-a-half people, as compared to a flu-infected person, who will infect 1.3 people. 

Coronavirus mortality rates range from 0.4 to 1.5%. Seasonal flu mortality rates are estimated at 0.1%. The coronavirus mortality rates are four to 15 times higher than the flu. 

Moreover, there’s a vaccine available for seasonal flu, and although it doesn’t offer 100% protection, it does provide some protection by slowing the spread of influenza viruses that are circulating and lessening the severity of the illness. 

: Only older adults are at risk of getting COVID-19. 

: Your risk of getting COVID-19 depends upon your exposure to or close contact with people who have the virus and your adherence to precautionary measures. Healthy adults and children can get and have symptoms of COVID-19. Based on current knowledge, those most at risk of getting severely ill from the virus are people who:

  • Are 65 years of age and older.
  • Live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
  • Have underlying medical conditions, including chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, liver disease or chronic kidney disease. 
  • Are immunocompromised due to undergoing cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS or prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.
  • Are severely obese with a body mass index of 40 or higher.

: Only people with visible symptoms of COVID-19 can spread the virus. Those without a cough or fever don't have COVID-19.

: Eighty percent of individuals infected with COVID 19 can be asymptomatic, meaning they show no symptoms at all, yet can continue to spread the infection to their close contacts. Those who do have symptoms report a wide range, from mild to severe. The most commonly reported COVID-19 symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

Other, less common symptoms have been reported, including gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

MYTH: Drinking or injecting bleach, alcohol or other disinfectants, or spraying them on your body, will kill the virus or help protect against it.

: Not only is this completely false but it is life-threateningly dangerous. Do not attempt any of these actions.

: Ultraviolet light inserted into the body could help kill the virus that causes COVID-19 and speed up recovery.

: While UV light is known to kill viruses contained in droplets in the air, there is currently no way it can be introduced into the human body and target cells infected with COVID-19. Any attempt to use UV light on the skin may cause severe burns. 

: Hand dryers kill coronavirus.

FACT: There is no scientific evidence to support this. Your best protection is to take the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
  • When soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay at least six feet away from other people.

MYTH: A negative COVID-19 test means you do not have the infection and are not contagious.

FACT: COVID-19 testing, unfortunately, carries a considerable rate of false negatives (around 30%). Some factors that contribute to false negatives include improper sample collection techniques, low viral load or faulty tests. If you continue to exhibit symptoms of the coronavirus after a negative test, contact your doctor for retesting. 

MYTH: Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine are effective treatments for COVID-19.

FACT: Unfortunately, the initial excitement for these drugs to potentially treat COVID-19 was not based on hard scientific evidence. These drugs have potentially serious side effects which may outweigh any yet-to-be-seen clinical benefits. Better structured clinical studies are underway.

MYTH: A vaccine to cure COVID-19 is available.

FACT: There is no COVID-19 vaccine available yet. There are a number of vaccines undergoing animal and human trials, but it will be a few months before it can be determined if they are successful and months after that before they become available to the public.

MYTH: If you have had and recovered from COVID-19 it is not possible to get the virus again.

FACT: According to the World Health Organization, there is not yet any evidence that suggests patients who have recovered from the infection and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. 

Community members who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or had exposure are encouraged to call Bayhealth’s Coronavirus Management Team hotline at 302-310-8477, Monday – Friday from 8:15 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit Bayhealth.org/COVID-19 for the latest information.