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Coronavirus: Misconceptions & Facts

As is the case with most medical emergencies and outbreaks, misinformation about the novel (new) coronavirus has been spreading rapidly, almost as fast as the virus itself has spread.

The first case of this novel coronavirus (known as 2019-nCoV or informally as the Wuhan virus) was found in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. As of February 11, 2020, there have been over 45,000 confirmed cases worldwide.*

From myths about drinking a magical liquid cure to fears against opening mail from China, there has been an array of misinformation about 2019-nCoV. To help clear up some of the confusion, we’ve detailed essential information below in order to dispel some common misconceptions.

Misconception #1: You can’t infect people if you don’t have symptoms

Common mild symptoms of 2019-nCoV include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, while more severe cases may cause vomiting, pneumonia, and can even be deadly if not properly treated. Symptoms can appear anywhere between two and 14 days, but experts believe it’s still possible to spread the virus if you’re not exhibiting any visible symptoms.

Misconception #2: The virus is not airborne

The virus can be spread through the air by respiratory droplets released by an infected person’s cough or sneeze. The droplets can enter a person’s mouth or nose if in close proximity, or can be inhaled into the lungs. It is for this reason that it’s vital to not have any close personal contact with someone who is sick.

Misconception #3: Wearing a face mask will prevent infection

People have rushed to purchase face masks as the fear of contracting the coronavirus has spread, so much so that they were even selling out in some stores. Unfortunately, they don’t quite offer the level of protection that people expect. Face masks can offer some protection against infections, but no face mask is 100% guaranteed to prevent illness. If you do choose to wear a face mask, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) suggests using an N95 mask as they effectively filter out 95% of airborne particles. It’s also essential that you get the mask properly “fit tested” to ensure it fits your face properly, otherwise it won’t be as effective.

It’s important to keep in mind that face masks may not be suitable for everyone; in fact, they’re only recommended for people who are sick or for anyone living with an infected person when sharing a room.

Misconception #4: Coronaviruses are new

While it’s true that 2019-nCoV is a novel (new) strain of coronavirus, there are actually many different types of coronaviruses, and seven in total that can infect humans. It’s likely that everyone at some point has been infected with some kind of coronavirus, since the common cold is caused by one of the viruses.

Misconception #5: Pets can spread 2019-nCoV

Although this strand of coronavirus most likely originated from animals, there is currently no evidence to support that your household pets can become infected with 2019-nCoV. However, it is still essential to properly wash your hands with soap and water after touching any animal to protect yourself from harmful bacterias.

Misconception #6: There are treatments and antibiotics to treat 2019-nCoV

There is currently no specific treatment for 2019-nCoV, nor is there a vaccine to prevent it. Additionally, antibiotics are used to treat bacteria, not viruses. Although there is no specific treatment yet, it is still vital to seek prompt medical care to best relieve and treat your symptoms.

Misconception #7: Traditional medicines like eating garlic or gargling with salt water can treat 2019-nCoV

Although garlic is a healthy food that may be beneficial in your diet because of its antimicrobial properties (meaning that it kills or prevents the growth of microorganisms), there is no evidence to support that it can prevent or treat 2019-nCoV.

As for gargling with salt water, it’s long been established that it can help soothe sore throats and coughs, but as with the garlic theory, there is again no evidence to support the claim that it’ll treat 2019-nCoV.

Misconception #8: It’s not safe to open mail from China

Experts have found that, although the virus can infect a human for weeks, it can only live up to a few hours on objects such as packages. The CDC reports that it’s very unlikely the virus would survive long enough to be mailed, so there is an extremely small risk of contracting the virus simply by opening mail or a package from China.

Misconception #9: The flu shot can protect against 2019-nCoV shot

While you should get a seasonal flu shot to protect yourself and others from the flu, it does not protect against coronaviruses. There is no vaccine for 2019-nCoV. The best way to prevent infection is by practicing safe hygiene habits such as:
Frequently washing your hands and/or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
Refraining from touching your face
Covering your coughs and sneezes
Avoiding close contact with those who are infected.

Misconception #10: The Miracle Mineral Solution can cure coronaviruses

If you haven’t heard about the Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS), here’s a brief overview: it’s a solution of sodium chlorite in distilled water that consumers add a citric acid to (like lemon juice) in order to “activate” the product. It’s used as an industrial disinfectant and is falsely promoted (mostly on social media) to cure illnesses such as HIV, cancer, and now the 2019-nCoV. In a press release from the FDA from August 2019, “Miracle Mineral Solution and similar products are not FDA-approved, and ingesting these products is the same as drinking bleach.”

Misconception #11: Only people from China get infected

The illness originated in China but it can affect anyone. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, are at an increased risk.

Although the virus can affect anyone, there has been an increase in reports of racism and xenophobia against Asian people since the outbreak. It is essential to remember that anyone can get infected by the virus and you should not pass judgement or stereotype.

Do you suspect you might have 2019-nCoV or wish to learn more? Give us a call or simply walk in to one of our multiple locations and our healthcare team will help!

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