Five Corona Myths-Busted!
Experts debunk popular misconceptions about the new coronavirus
What spreads faster and wider than the novel coronavirus, especially in a huge country with a massive population like India? Fake news, of course. As with any major phenomenon, rumours, gossip and unscientific beliefs are making their way into people’s screens and minds, which, considering the ruthless nature of the coronavirus, will have serious ramifications on the health of thousands of people. We spoke to respiratory-medicine experts to dispel some of the more commonplace myths about COVID-19 that are making the rounds.
Myth 1: A face mask won’t do much to protect you from catching the COVID-19 virus
According to Dr Sundeep Salvi, director of Pulmocare Research and Education Foundation in Pune, the answer is yes and no both. “Sneezing and coughing can release 5,000 droplets into the air and these can travel for a distance of up to 2 metres. The droplets and therefore the virus can remain in the air for a short period of time. There is an 80 per cent chance that the virus enters your body through the nose, slightly less through the eyes or mouth.
Even if you haven’t tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, there is a high chance you could be a carrier. It is important, therefore, that you protect yourself and others with an appropriate mask when you are outside and around other people. You can do without one if you are alone at home or in a vehicle. However, if you are wearing a mask that is porous, or fits badly, then it defeats the purpose and you are left vulnerable.”
Myth 2: The COVID-19 virus will die out in hot weather
Says Dr Vikas Maurya director & head, department of pulmonology & sleep disorders at Delhi’s Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, “COVID-19 cases have appeared in many tropical countries—Singapore, Thailand, India—so the idea that it will completely go away in the summer is not true. When it comes to virus transmission, factors such as temperature, humidity and type of surface must be considered. Virus-laden droplets on surfaces can remain anywhere between 2 hours to nine days according to the WHO. These are likely to dry out rapidly in warm weather, possibly reducing its chances of being picked up. However, direct human-to-human transmission will continue.
It is, therefore, imperative that we continue taking the precautionary and preventive measures such as social distancing and hygiene. But then again, this is a new virus that we are still learning about, so we can only really make educated guesses about what will happen. We will only know for sure when the summers hit.”
Myth 3: COVID-19 only kills the elderly, so younger people can relax
According to Dr (Major) Monica Barne (Retd), from Pulmocare Research and Education Foundation, “Fatalities are mostly quite high among the elderly though some comparatively younger people have succumbed to it as well. But the COVID-19 virus can affect all age groups.
Anyone in contact with the virus can become a carrier and easily transmit it, which is why younger people should be careful. If they contract the virus, they may exhibit none or only mild symptoms as long as their immune systems can fight off the infection. But they are putting others at risk as carriers.
This is why the lockdown—especially in a country like India with limited resources, overcrowding and poor health and hygiene conditions—is absolutely appropriate and should be followed by young and old alike.”
Myth 4: Antibiotics can help prevent and treat the new coronavirus
“This is not true. Antibiotics work only against bacteria. What we are dealing with now is a virus, which an antibiotic cannot kill.
The reason antibiotics are prescribed when someone is infected with, say, the influenza virus, is that this leaves you vulnerable to other bacteria in your system, so the infection becomes two-pronged. The virus kills epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract making it vulnerable and bacteria can grow very easily on it. So most patients with a viral infection also have a bacterial infection. Once the bacteria is killed by the antibiotic, the body is able to defend itself from the virus.
Viruses can be killed with antivirals, but these are not available over the counter and can only be given under strict medical supervision,” says Salvi.
Myth 5: You can catch the COVID virus through eating meat
COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that can only come from direct contact with droplets released by an infected person. While it may have originated in animals and then transmitted to people, it is not transmitted from person to person through food or meat. So there is no reason why you should stop eating non-vegetarian food. The only precautions to be taken should be to ensure whatever is eaten is fresh, properly cooked and is stored or transported with correct hygiene protocols,” says Dr Barne.