There’s something spreading more virally than the coronavirus itself and it has, arguably, even more caustic implications: misinformation.
An investigation by the US State Department discovered that there were a whopping 2 million tweets propagating coronavirus conspiracy theories during a three-week period between January 20 and February 10, according to The Washington Post.
The alleged cures are wide-ranging and increasingly ludicrous; some of the latest include eating garlic, masturbation, cocaine use, and drinking bleach. Obviously, no one should adopt any of these ‘cures’ unless, as Trevor Noah quipped in a recent segment of The Daily Show, “you want to kick-off the most rock-n-roll party of your life”.
This isn’t to downplay the severity of the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19). As of today, there are 142,649 confirmed cases and 5,393 deaths.
While the disease is highly contagious, the myths about coronavirus’ containment and suggested preventative measures are largely a result of mass hysteria. In a world where ‘fake news’ has become the MO of Twitter fiends and presidents alike, it pays to let your decisions be informed by reputable sources alone.
Here are five myths about coronavirus you should squash immediately:
1. Myth: Coronavirus is projected to kill 65 million people
Yes, coronavirus is spreading quickly, but the assumption that it will cause a death count that high is unfounded, and doesn’t consider methods of containment.
The rumour started after a John Hopkins research centre ran an ‘exercise’ that tried to mimic the global response to a pandemic. Most have misinterpreted the study and attributed its predictions to the potential death toll of an outbreak similar to the novel coronavirus. In other words, this particular study did not have a relation to the coronavirus at all; it was merely a scenario that seemed similar to what we’re experiencing with the virus now.
While it’s still too early to gauge the mortality rate for the disease, as of March 3 the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates a 3.4 per cent mortality rate.
2. Myth: You should wear a mask at all times
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has urged against healthy, unaffected people to refrain from using face masks. In fact, according to US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the masks could actually exacerbate the potential for infection if they aren’t worn properly.
If you’ve bought into the preventative mask craze and have tried to buy a mask yourself, you probably noticed that they are either sold out everywhere, or the prices have soared astronomically. Officials have warned the public not to hoard masks, as doing so poses a threat to those who are most in need of the masks.
The only people who should be wearing the masks are those who actually have the virus, those caring for an infected patient, and, of course, healthcare workers.
3. Myth: Coronavirus can be killed with heat
For those in the northern hemisphere who see hope on the quickly approaching summer heat ahead, think again.
This assumption isn’t totally off the grid — some viruses such as the common cold and flu viruses, tend to spread more rapidly during colder months, but that does not mean that they cease entirely when weather conditions become warmer in the spring and summer months.
The same goes for artificial heat sources, namely hand dryers. Acccording to WHO, the heat from a hand dryer cannot kill the coronavirus.
The WHO also discounted UV lamps as a stand-in virus eradication method. It is far more likely to be public health interventions rather than warmer weather that will slow its dispersal.
4. Myth: A coronavirus vaccine exists
It is true that researchers in several countries are working expediently to develop and test a vaccine. However, no such vaccine has been released as of yet, according to Politifact.
“The traditional vaccine timeline is 15 to 20 years. That would not be acceptable here,” said Mark Feinberg, president, and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, in an interview with Stat News.
“When you hear predictions about it taking at best a year or a year and a half to have a vaccine available … there’s no way to come close to those timelines unless we take new approaches.”
Nevertheless, the turnaround period for a coronavirus vaccine is slated to be released 12 months from now. And, human trials testing a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19 could begin “within a few weeks”, a top US health official told CNBC on Thursday.
5. Myth: Coronavirus symptoms are just like the flu
To muddle the waters, even more, the coronavirus pandemic has hit right about the time flu season sets in. Symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to that of the common flu, including a cough, fever, body aches, and fatigue.
Unlike the flu, coronavirus sufferers may also experience shortness of breath. Before a slight temperature sets you off into a state of panic, err on the side of cool-headedness and rationality. You’re more likely to have the flu than COVID-19.
“That said, it is around two percent on average, which is about 20 times higher than for the seasonal flu lineages currently in circulation,” Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College London reported to Science Alert.
While the coronavirus may have a higher death rate than the flu, it is still relatively low at 3.4 per cent.
When a state of mass hysteria sets in, like all things in life, it’s wise to keep level-headed. Amidst a sea of propagated misinformation, stick to reliable sources. There are very little things you can do to prevent becoming afflicted by the coronavirus, other than take all the necessary precautions.
This article was written by Meghan Ingraham and originally published on The Ladders.