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COVID -19 Myths

Common Myths Regarding the Coronavirus.

-Facemasks cannot protect you from the virus.  The only absolute way to avoid getting the virus is avoidance but since this is not realistically possible, the use of masks can decrease the risk.   The worst protection from acquiring the virus is nothing and the best is using a N95 or equivalent mask.  Only the N95 mask can help prevent you from getting the virus.  These masks need to be fitted properly in order to work.  A big problem is that they are not readily available to anyone but 1st responders and medical staff caring for COVID-19 patients.  Surgical masks are not as good but better than do-it-yourself masks.

-You are way less likely to get COVID-19 than the influenza virus.  The Ro values would suggest that we might be twice as likely to get the COVID-19 virus as influenza.  The expectation is that this will change in the future as a significant percentage of the population develops natural immunity and with the expectation and hope that a vaccination will become available.  The seasonal influenza virus vaccine does a pretty good job of reducing the chances of getting influenza hence the lower Ro value.

-COVID-19 is just a mutated form of the common cold.  It is true that both are members of the coronavirus family.  They are called coronavirus because of the spike he projections on their surface called spike proteins that facilitate the infection of host cells.  COVID-19 is a novel virus that probably originated in bats and recently jumped species from bats to humans.

-The virus was probably made in a biological warfare lab in China.  This has become a popular conspiracy theory.  Part of the theory stems from the fact that Wuhan is the location for the Chinese Biological Warfare Department.  Nevertheless, the science suggests that this virus more than likely comes from a bat source and most likely the meat market in Wuhan that was illegally selling bats for human consumption.

-Getting COVID-19 is a death sentence.  Although there definitely have been deaths in patients with contracted COVID-19, the majority of persons will have a mild disease.  The difficulty with giving numbers is not really knowing the number of people who are infected whose disease is so mild that it never comes to anyone attention including their own.  Since the denominator is completely unknown, using the numerator (number of deaths) becomes problematic.  Nevertheless, in proven cases it is expected that over 80% of people will have mild disease.  Severe disease may be present in 5-10%.  The data thus far suggests that the fatality rate is around 2.3%.  Older persons and those with underlying health conditions seem to be most at risk of having severe disease and death.  Therefore, while there is no need to panic, all person should take steps to protect themselves and others from this infection.  

-Pets can spread the virus.  In China there is 1 suspected case of a dog contracting COVID-19 from its owner.  Therefore, dogs may be vulnerable to picking up the virus from people; however, there is no evidence of viral transmission from pet dogs or cats to humans.

-Lockdowns and quarantines do not prevent the spread of contagious diseases.  The purpose of quarantine is to prevent people with active disease from spreading the disease to susceptible people.  In addition, although it might not reduce your eventual contraction of the disease, it will certainly reduce the number of active disease cases it anyone time there by reducing the burden on the health care system.  If all of us get the disease at the same time, the health care system will not be able to take care of everyone.  If the same number of people get the disease; however, it is spread out over a longer time period, the health care system will be better positioned to care for assault.

-If you have coronavirus, you will know.  This is not necessarily the case.  Common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.  Much less common symptoms are nausea, vomiting and a runny nose.  Early on, infected people may show no symptoms at all and probably many people who get COVID-19 virus will have such mild symptoms it will not come to their attention.  All of these symptoms can also be seen in the common cold or influenza.

-Vitamin C supplements will stop you from catching COVID-19.  Unfortunately, researchers have yet to find anything that may help prevent the spread of the infection or less than the effects of the virus.  Having said that, there is some data that high doses of vitamin C can ward off the common cold and/or shorten the duration of a cold should you catch one.  So yes, vitamin C might be helpful but there is no scientific data yet.  Other supplements such as zinc, green tea and echinacea are other treatments commonly used for the common cold; however, there is no evidence to suggest that they can prevent COVID-19.

-It is not safe to order any products from China.  Research has found that coronavirus does not survive long on objects such as letters and packages.  This has not been completely verified with COVID-19 virus but has been demonstrated with similar coronavirus as such as SARS and MERS.  So there is a very low risk of spread from products or packaging that may be shipped from China.

-You can get the coronavirus if you eat Chinese food.  Probably not.  If that were the case we would need to be worried about all food prepared in restaurants.  It is not clear that it is possible to get it from a food source.  On the other hand, the food servers and other patrons in the restaurant are much more likely source of the virus than the food would be.  Hence the restriction on all restaurants being closed except for take-out or delivery.

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