COVID-19 Misconceptions

The following are a list of common misconceptions and the most accurate and reliable information we can find to combat each one. If you disagree with any of the information in the post, have questions or anything to add- please post in the comments or on Social Media. We always love to engage in academic discussions with our readers. Following each misconception is an explanation.

Misconception #1

A vaccine to cure COVID-19 is available. (OR- The Flu Vaccine will work)

This is simply untrue. There is no vaccine for this new coronavirus mutation right now. Scientists have already begun working on one, but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in human beings may take up to a year for development and testing before it is ready for wide inoculation.

Misconception # 2:

You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by swallowing or gargling with bleach, taking acetic acid or steroids, or using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other substances.

None of these recommendations protects you from getting COVID-19, and some of these practices may be dangerous. The best ways to protect yourself from this coronavirus (and other viruses) include:

  1. Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and hot water.
  2. Avoiding close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing.
  3. In addition, you can avoid spreading your own germs by coughing into the crook of your elbow and staying home when you are sick.

Misconception # 3

The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.

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. There are other coronaviruses (SARS and MERS) but neither currently have a vaccine. There is no evidence to support the idea that the virus was weaponized or developed. They already exist in nature.

Misconception # 4

Ordering or buying products shipped from China will make a person sick.

Researchers are studying the coronavirus to learn more about how it infects people. As of this writing (March 3, 2020), scientists note that COVID-19 has been documented to stay alive on surfaces up to 9 days. While it is unlikely you would get COVID-19 from a package that was in transit for many days or weeks, wiping packages down with a wipe that has bleach (like Clorox or Lysol wipes) or spraying with a bleach based cleanser should kill any virus particles that might be on the surface. The illness is most likely transmitted by droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough, but more information is emerging daily.

Misconception # 5

A face mask will protect you from COVID-19.

Certain models of professional, tight-fitting respirators (such as the N95) can protect health care workers as they care for infected patients. For the general public without respiratory illness, wearing lightweight disposable surgical masks is not recommended. Because they don’t fit tightly, they may allow tiny infected droplets to get into the nose, mouth or eyes. Also, people with the virus on their hands who touch their face under a mask might become infected. People with a respiratory illness can wear these masks to lessen their chance of infecting others. Bear in mind that stocking up on masks makes fewer available for sick patients and health care workers who need them.

Misconception #6

Pets can spread the virus

At present, there is no evidence that companion animals/pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.

Misconception #7

Only older people and kids are getting the virus.

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). It is true that older people, kids will less developed immune systems and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Misconception #8

Doing (insert weird home remedy here) will prevent you from getting the virus.

No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.

No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus. There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

No. Eating an excess amount of garlic cannot prevent infection with the virus. Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCoV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform; however, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.

For more Information about the the virus check out Mapping COVID-19 with GIS or the COVID math posts.

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7 thoughts on “COVID-19 Misconceptions

  1. With all of these misconceptions on this virus, what are some accurate ways we can decrease our chance of getting the virus?

    1. The biggest thing we can do is to practice good hygiene and wash our hands. Viruses have to get into our bodies before they can make us sick. Our skin really protects us well. As long as the virus just gets on our skin, it is not usually going to make us sick. The problem is that we all tend to touch our faces 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. We also use our hands for eating and the virus can get introduced if we don’t wash our hands and contaminate the food we are eating. So just keep washing your hands and encourage others to wash their hands and don’t share items like forks and spoons, drinks, vaping devices, straws and toothbrushes. No need to panic but we should all be paying more attention to basic hygiene to help limit the spread.

  2. This was really helpful! I hope that we find a cure soon I don’t think I can bear another loss to this horrid virus :(.

  3. Dear Dr. Cassidy- There have been lots of new conspiracy theories come out this week. Is there any plan to update this post to add new information? Like -is it true that weed feeds the virus and that is why the numbers are high in washington and california?

    1. Yes- There are a lot of new crazy theories and advice out there. We do need to update the post and we will put that on the list to update. I do not have any evidence to support that anyone is testing marijuana or THC specifically to see the interaction with the virus but I will look and post what I can find, if anything. Thanks for the question.

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