As the pandemic continues to keep the whole world in its grip of infections, a deluge of misinformation has taken over social media. Self-styled health experts, promoters of alternative medicine, politicians and influencers with little or no knowledge about medicine have shared and spread myths about the virus. We will therefore look at the common myths that are spread on social media and debunk the same with conclusive, scientific proof of the factually incorrect information.
Myth number 1 – the virus is caused by bacteria
This appears to have been spread by self-styled experts about medicine, with absolutely no knowledge about the difference between virus and bacteria. Covid-19 belongs to the family of the coronaviridae that is classified as a virus. It is not a bacterial infection, and it is important to understand the difference, because bacterial infections are treated by antibiotics. The confusion is further compounded by the fact that certain patients who get infected by the virus develop other complications, which includes bacterial infections. Consequently, antibiotics are prescribed for treating the bacterial infections. However, the actually coronavirus infection is attributed to a virus and not bacteria.
Myth number 2 – wearing of medical mask for a long time research in oxygen deficiency
It is true that continued wearing of medical masks may result in a certain degree of discomfort, which may vary from person to person. However, other than the discomfort, the mask not does not cause any kind of oxygen deficiency or carbon dioxide intoxication. By wearing a mask that is properly stretched/tightly worn, you will not have any difficulties in breathing. A mask that is rightly worn will allow the required amount of oxygen to be inhaled and exhaled. It is important to wear a disposable mask only once, and replace it if it is damp.
Myth number 3 – the virus spreads through shoes
By virtue of the finding that the size of the droplets are heavy and big, theories have been doing the rounds that the virus spreads through shoes. With the exception of healthcare facilities, where the risk of transmission is high as a result of the large number of covid-19 positive patients, the possibility of the virus spreading through shoes is low in residences. Basic precautions such as leaving footwear at the entrance or outside the entrance to your home will help prevent the spread of the virus.
Myth number 4 – vaccines and medications are available for the virus
At present, there are no medications or vaccines for the virus. Research is at an advanced stage with human trials commencing in various laboratories across the globe. However, there is no medication at present to cure the virus. Many unscrupulous business entities have attempted to mislead the public by launching products with names that are cleverly designed to give the impression that it is a cure for the infection. Present treatment protocols followed globally, include various medications to treat individual symptoms that are experienced by patients as a result of the infection.
Myth number 5 – covid-19 can be detected by thermal scanners
The use of thermal scanners is primarily for the purpose of detecting fever in individuals. The scanners check the surface temperature of the individual and this helps to detect if the patient is exhibiting one of the symptoms of the infection. High temperature is one of the conditions in symptomatic patients. The results of thermal screening are used as the basis for further diagnostics to determine if the individual is suffering from the infection. It is therefore wrong to assume that thermal scanners will detect covid-19.
Myth number 6 – individuals who can hold their breath for 10 seconds easily are not covid-19 positive
This qualifies as one of the most famous viral social media posts about self-tests or diagnosis for covid-19. This rumour has been falsely attributed to different prestigious universities and research centres. As per the contents of the social media post, individuals who can easily hold their breath for more than 10 seconds without any discomfort or coughing are free from covid-19. This is as far as possible from the truth, as only a laboratory test can confirm or rule out the infection. Attempting the so called breathing test can be dangerous for individuals who have other respiratory related disorders. This breathing test will not provide any results or inputs whatsoever about the infection.
Myth number 7 – coronavirus infections will not spread in regions with hot climate
When the first outbreak of the virus was reported, attempts were made to draw a link between climate and the infections. The first round of infections were reported from regions with relatively colder climate. This became a convenient excuse for rumour mongers to spread misinformation that the virus does not survive in hot climates. However, this rumour slowly faded from public memory as the infection spread to almost all nations in the globe, including countries with the hottest climates.
Myth number 8 – the virus infection spreads through house flies
While it is true that the infection is new and research is ongoing into the various modes of transmission, processed data that is available at present does not suggest transmission of the virus through houseflies. There have been various fear mongering social media posts that claimed the infection spread through house flies. As has been reiterated by scientists and the medical community, the virus spreads mainly through droplets. This occurs when individuals speak, cough or sneeze, which expel the droplets, resulting in individuals in close proximity getting infected. Physical contact with contaminated surfaces are also responsible for the spread of infection. This occurs when an individual touches a contaminated surface with hands, followed by touching the nose, mouth or eyes. These three organs are the primary mode of entry of the virus into the body.
Myth number 9 – pepper helps to prevent and cure the infection
Pepper has been regarded as a healthy ingredient in cooking throughout the ages. However it is wrong to assume that pepper can help prevent the onset of the infection or cure infection. Various social media posts have claimed that the addition of paper in soups or preparations, helps to ward off the infection and cure the individual from the infection. This is false and without any basis, and runs the risk of creating a false sense of security among individuals who may end up getting infected with the virus.
Myth number 10 – fatalities of covid-19 are very high
When the first outbreak of the virus was reported, there were visuals and reports that created fear in the minds of individuals. This included visuals of body bags and high fatalities. Consequently, this impression about the infection was embedded in public memory. It is true that there are fatalities that are attributed to comorbidities and respiratory related disorders. But, the recovery percentage is high, clearly indicating that most of the patients who are infected with the virus recover from the condition. In certain nations the recovery is as high as 90%, which effectively means that nine out of ten patients are expected to recover from the condition.
Myth number 11 – consuming alcohol helps protect against coronavirus infection
Various social media posts have claimed that consuming alcohol helps to fight the infection effectively. This has been based on unscientific comparisons with the use of hand sanitizers. As sanitizers contain spirit, comparisons were drawn with the presence of spirit in alcohol. However, the claim is entirely false and will offer no protection whatsoever to individuals who consume alcohol. On the contrary, this could result in in increased consumption of alcohol, and possible addiction, which may result in health complications.
Myth number 12 – the use of bleach and disinfectants on the body will protect against the virus
The scientific community recommended the use of sanitizers and soap for washing hands. Similarly, the use of disinfectants were recommended for sanitizing surfaces that may have been exposed to contamination from infected individuals. There is a clear distinction between the use of sanitizers and disinfectants. Bleach and disinfectants are harsh and not suitable for use on the body. It is therefore wrong to believe that introducing any kind of bleach or disinfectant into the body will offer protection. On the contrary, this could result in triggering irritation, inflammation or can be poisonous if inhaled or ingested. There have been reports of individuals drinking bleach, ethanol or methanol in an attempt to clean and kill the virus. This is a very dangerous option, and is known to cause debilitating injuries or result in possible fatalities. There is every possibility of serious organ damage if disinfectants are consumed.
Myth number 13 – spread of covid-19 infections are due to 5G mobile networks
This has possibly got to be one of the most deviously imagined rumours. Elaborate supporting details were used to manipulate and present that 5G networks were responsible for the spread of the virus. This claim is outrageous, considering the fact that radio waves are not a medium for the transmission of viruses. The virus is transmitted from individual to individual through the air when expelled droplets are inhaled. There is absolutely no connection between a 5G network and the transmission of the coronavirus. For the record, 5G networks were introduced on a trial basis in only a few nations, whereas most of the nations all over the globe have coronavirus cases.
Myth number 14 – the infection stays for life
Another rumour that has been doing the rounds is the claim that the infected person will remain infected for life. Various parallels have been attempted to be drawn with other conditions – for instance tuberculosis. However, the comparison is wrong, and through a proper combination of the right medication it is possible to effect a complete recovery. This will fully eliminate the virus from the infected person. While it is true that there are cases of patients returning to hospitals after recovery, most of these cases are related to symptoms that have been experienced as a result of infection.
Myth number 15 – hot water bath can prevent covid-19
During the initial stages of the outbreak, there were viral social media posts that claimed hot water baths as a preventive measure. The posts claimed that taking a hot bath with water in very high temperatures can protect and cure a person from the virus. It is necessary to understand that the use of extremely hot water can cause scalding and burns. Additionally, the hot water will not afford any kind of protection against the virus. This is because, the body temperature remains unchanged even when exposed to hot water bath. Therefore there is no possibility of killing the virus as claimed in the viral social media posts. Additionally, these posts also claimed that hair dryers or hand dryers very good options to kill the virus. None of these options work, and it is unsafe to even consider using a hand dryer or a hair dryer for a long time, for purposes other than intended roles.
In addition to the above, there have been various social media posts, claiming that garlic, turmeric, lime, and ginger are all effective in treating the condition/preventing the infection. None of the claims are supported by scientific evidence or tests, but are claims based on wild theories. While it is true that some of the ingredients are good for boosting immunity; that does not qualify as protection from the virus. The safest option is to maintain social distancing and wear a proper mask whenever in the presence of others. Touching of surfaces in public areas is to be avoided and most importantly, individuals need to ensure that the eyes, nose and mouth are not touched after touching surfaces. As the world slowly limps back to normalcy and shops, businesses open for the public, it is necessary to exercise extra caution. Families with elders in the home and little children need to take extra precautions and ensure that the vulnerable sections are not exposed to infection. Individuals with pre-existing conditions need to be on guard all the time, as infections could manifest into serious complications. This is especially true in the case of patients with respiratory illnesses and impaired organ functions.