When it comes to the coronavirus, it’s important to know your COVID-19 myths from facts. Doctor Mark Gomez of Edward-Elmhurst Health joined NCTV17 via the Zoom app to break down some of the misconceptions.
Myth #1: “It’s Just Like Getting the Flu”
While the flu and COVID-19 spread in a similar way (via droplets from coughs and sneezes) and have some of the same symptoms (fever, dry cough, chills and muscle aches), that’s where the similarities end. COVID-19 is deadlier than the seasonal flu and spreads more rapidly. COVID-19 has a higher hospitalization rate as well.
Although the flu can be deadly for some, symptoms usually worsen gradually, where as those with COVID-19 may not experience symptoms for days if at all, and symptoms can “turn on a dime,” says Dr. Gomez. “The thing with this virus is when it viciously attacks the lungs, it attacks our ability to breathe. People present (symptoms) just like that with the snap of a finger and need acute medical attention in a hospital setting.”
Myth #2: “COVID-19 Only Gets Older People Sick”
While it’s true people age 65 and older are at a greater risk of complications from COVID-19 because of their weaker immune systems, anyone with a compromised immune system is at risk. This includes people with diabetes, liver disease, heart conditions, moderate to severe asthma, and severe obesity. Many younger people will not get as severally sick from COVID-19, though it is possible for some younger people with no preexisting conditions. The Center for Disease Control found that of 2,500 cases studied from February 16 to March 16, 40% were in people ages 20 to 54.
Myth #3: “If I Have No Symptoms, I Don’t Have the Disease and Therefore Can’t Spread It”
One of the COVID-19 myths that is most leading people to not take the precautions that they should. Many do not realize that the symptoms caused by the virus can run the gamete from no symptoms at all to mild symptoms like cough and minor aches to severe symptoms like a bad fever and major aches all over the body. It is possible to have the disease and not have any signs, therefore not knowing you had ever contracted it. Should this happen, you become a carrier of the disease and can then spread it to someone who may not have as strong as an immune system and might potentially experience worse symptoms. The rate at which people spread a disease is called an R-Nought, or R0. The R0 of the flu is 1, meaning each person is likely to spread to one other. For the coronavirus, this rate is two to three. So one person could spread it to three. Those three could each spread it to three others each, or nine total. The nine affected could become 27 and so on and so forth until quickly reaching hundreds and thousands of people. This phenomenon, known as an exponential spread, is why the U.S. went from one confirmed case to nearly 500,000 in just over three months (from January to April 10).
Myth #4: “Antibiotics Can Kill Coronavirus”
The reality is that there is no proven treatment for this disease yet. It is a novel virus that does not have a long enough history to have been studied. However, we do know that the virus is not a bacteria so therefore antibiotics cannot kill it. According to Dr. Gomez, this is one of the largest COVID-19 myths out there.
Myth #5: “The Virus Dies in Warm Weather”
People who live in warm weather are actively affected. There are almost 200 countries worldwide, including those in warm climate, where the virus has affected its residents. We still don’t know exactly how weather impacts the virus and so it’s best to continue to wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing even if the weather is nice out and temperatures rise.
Myth #6: “Washing My Hands Alone is Enough to Keep Me Safe”
Any soap will break down the protective layering of the virus which is why it’s best to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, covering all surfaces, including fingertips, between the fingers, thumbs, and front and back surfaces of the skin. If soap and water are not readily available, it’s best to use hand sanitizer. However, experts continue to urge people not to touch their face, especially around the mouth, nose, and eyes, despite how tempting that may be. You can easily inoculate yourself, or in other words, breathe it in. If this happens, it only becomes a matter of how well your immune system can fight it off.
Myth #7: “COVID-19 Virus Can Be Flushed Down My System”
“The idea of gargling water or salter water, apple-cider vinegar, lime juice is a complete fallacy,” said Gomez. “The virus is inhaled and not swallowed as far as going into your gastrointestinal system. It viciously attacks the lungs and somebody’s ability to breathe.”
Myth #8: “Social Distancing is an Overreaction”
Social distancing helps hospitals continue to treat severe patients who have and social distancing allows the spread to slow a bit so the healthcare system does not get overrun or maintain a “crisis mode.” Many experts say that the key to lessen the social distancing rules include getting testing of the coronavirus to be more available across the country, documenting decreased number of confirmed infections over a period of time (most say 2 weeks), and greater equity in the healthcare system, including more beds and ventilators available.
Myth #9: “There is Nothing Positive to Come from Sheltering at Home”
Dr. Gomez believes this is the time stay connected to your friends and loved ones and the time for humanity to come together (even while literally standing apart). “Embrace the collaboration that’s happening and help lift each other up out of this,” he says.
When he’s not breaking down COVID-19 myths, Dr. Gomez also hosts a podcast every Wednesday night discusses various health and medical related topics.