The new coronavirus disease or Covid-19 has been with us for more than half a year since it was first reported in China in December 2019. In that short period, it has affected more than seven million people and killed 410,000. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Covid-19 as a pandemic on 30th January 2020 and has since then provided information and guidelines about the disease and its management.
Covid-19 has attracted millions of posts and publications in the media and social media much of it being misleading or false. This has led to strenuous efforts going into fact-checking and information validation to ensure that people receive only credible information. Despite all of that, many myths still persist about the pandemic.
In the interest of safety, this column, as part of a global effort to sieve the chaff from the wheat, so to speak, periodically gets to grips with some of the claims appearing in the media and social media. This is important because knowing the facts about COVID-19 symptoms, how the virus spreads and what you can do to stop it will help protect you and your community.
This crop of myths was gathered in Southern Africa where the WHO asked community health workers in the region to gather myths and misinformation spreading fast in communities. Other myths were collected from the Johns Hopkins Medical Centre website.
Myth: Most people who get COVID-19 get very sick or die
FACT: Most people who get COVID-19 will have a mild form of the illness and recover without needing professional medical care. Around eight out of every 10 people with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. Around one in six people will become severely ill and need hospital care. Scientific modelling suggests that around 1 in 100 people who get COVID-19 will die.
Myth: You can always tell if a person has Covid-19
FACT: No. The virus can be in someone’s body for up to 14 days before they get symptoms, and some people will have such a mild case of COVID-19 that they might not notice that anything is wrong. That’s why it’s important that everyone follows government advice – including hand washing, using tissues to catch coughs and sneezes, and avoiding crowds – to stop the spread of the virus, even if they feel healthy.
Myth: Black and African people can’t get COVID-19?
FACT: Anyone can get COVID-19, regardless of race or skin colour. Older people and people with other health conditions, such as asthma, heart diseases and diabetes, are more at risk of getting seriously ill.
Myth: Covid-19 only affects old people so young people don’t have to worry
FACT: While COVID-19 can be more dangerous in older people, anyone can get it including young people, some of whom become seriously ill. While we don’t yet fully understand why some people get more serious symptoms, we do know that young people are more likely to develop serious symptoms if they have certain underlying health conditions, for example, asthma, heart conditions or untreated HIV.
FACT: If you are living with HIV and on effective treatment, there’s no evidence that you are at a higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms. This is because your treatment will be keeping your immune system strong and your body able to deal with infections. If you are worried that you might have HIV, now is a good time to get tested so you can start treatment if you need it.
Myth: Antiretroviral treatment (ART) for HIV will stop people from getting COVID-19?
FACT: There is no evidence that taking anti-HIV drugs will stop you from getting COVID-19. Although some ART drugs are being trialed for use to treat COVID-19, there is no evidence yet that they are effective for this purpose.
Myth: COVID-19 cannot spread in warm sunny weather?
FACT: COVID-19 can survive temperatures higher than 25C. You can catch it no matter how sunny and warm it is. So, whatever the weather you should follow the official advice to protect yourself from the virus. Getting out into the sunshine, if you can, is still a good idea as this helps your body produce vitamin D which is important for your immune system.
Myth: Drinking lots of hot drinks stop COVID-19?
FACT: There is no drink hot or cold that will protect you from COVID-19 or cure the illness. So far, there’s no proven cure for COVID-19 but most people recover by themselves. Taking paracetamol, drinking lots of liquids, and getting enough rest can help you manage your symptoms.
Myth: Using a strong disinfectant to clean my hands and body will protect myself from COVID-19?
FACT: You shouldn’t use strong disinfectant to clean your body. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water or rubbing an alcohol-based sanitiser on them will stop the virus spreading. Using stronger chemicals on your skin can be dangerous. Never drink disinfectant or hand sanitizer as this can do serious damage.
Myth: Can Chloroquine cure COVID-19?
FACT: At the moment there is no proven cure for COVID-19, but most people will recover on their own without needing professional medical care. If you think you have COVID-19 and are having difficulty breathing, contact your local health facility as you will need professional medical care. As scientists and doctors continue their work to understand and treat COVID-19 our knowledge of, and ability to treat and prevent the virus will improve. For now, it is important to follow official government advice and get information only from reliable sources like the WHO or the government.
Myth: You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by injecting, swallowing, bathing in or rubbing onto your body bleach, disinfectants or rubbing alcohol.
FACT: These products are highly toxic and should never be swallowed or injected into the body. Call 911 if this occurs. Disinfectants, bleach and soap and water may be used to clean surfaces, an important prevention step in stopping the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus that’s led to the global pandemic. Never attempt to self-treat or prevent COVID-19 by rubbing or bathing with bleach, disinfectants or rubbing alcohol anywhere on your body. Effective hand sanitisers do have alcohol, but they are formulated to be safe for use on hands.
Myth: The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.
FACT: Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.
Myth: Ordering or buying products shipped from overseas will make a person sick from handling the parcel.
FACT: Researchers are studying the new coronavirus to learn more about how it infects people. As of this writing, the WHO says that the likelihood of becoming infected with COVID-19 from a commercial package is low since it has likely traveled over several days and been exposed to different temperatures and conditions during transit.
firstname.lastname@example.org with support from the Media Foundation for West Africa Fact-Checking Project