Panic spreads faster than the pandemic – and myths go a long way in spreading misinformation and stoking fear. With Covid-19 on the loose, prowling through public places, claiming victims around the world, it is no wonder family whatsapp groups are brimming with fake news and myths.
“Corona virus is man-made and it will be the cause of the world coming to an end”, announced an Uncle in a group I am part of. I rolled my eyes and deleted the message. There are many such myths running around in social media circles.
The Better India speaks to Dr Vivek Nangia, HOD & Director, Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, who helps debunk some of the myths that are doing the rounds.
1. Consuming Garlic Will Help Fight the Virus
This is one myth that reached me as well. I got a frantic call from my father who insisted that I make rasam for the children, given that it has some magical properties to fight the virus. To this Dr Nangia says, “Consume it if you like it. There is no evidence to show that eating garlic will, in any way, keep the virus at bay.”
“There is no harm in consuming garlic, onion, or even sipping on water at regular intervals. However, doing so believing that it will help in reducing the spread of coronavirus is baseless and there is no truth behind it.”
2. Should I be Wearing a Mask?
This is yet another point that seems to have so many different opinions. While, on one hand, parents are encouraging their children to wear masks to schools, another set of parents are vehemently opposing the use of masks.
Throwing some light on this, Dr Nagia says, “There are two types of masks – surgical masks and the N95 masks. The surgical masks are recommended only for those people who are suffering with symptoms or those who are in close contact and providing care to the patient.”
The N95 masks are only for health care providers that too in specific situations and not for OPD’s and clinics, he says. “Please remember that using a mask unless you have been advised to do so by your healthcare provider can be counter-productive,” he says.
Wear a mask only if you are coughing or sneezing and remember that masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
Also remember that the masks are literally carrying so many pathogens that disposing them off properly is as vital as using them. One reason to wear a simple surgical mask is to avoid touching your face, which is one of the most widespread ways to get infected.
3. Should I Be Worried about My Pet being a Carrier?
Dispelling the fear that many pet-owners might be facing, Dr Nangia says, “There is no evidence or study to back this fear. Having said that, it is always advisable to wash your hands after you have come in contact with pets or other domestic animals.”
He also advises that one should take care while handling raw animal products, like meat, chicken etc. “There is no fear in consuming meat, all one needs to take care of is to cook it well, in fact maybe even slightly over cooked,” he says.
4. It only impacts the elderly, so relax!
“From the research that has so far been conducted, children are shown to be more protected, probably because of their innate immune mechanism. The median age group affected by the Corona virus is about 47 years of age,” he explains.
It is imperative that we understand that the virus can impact anyone of any age. The young have no special protection against the virus. The elderly can have a higher chance of developing a more severe infection because of their age and other medical conditions, but that does not mean the virus only attacks the elderly.
5. Those Who Contract the Virus will Die
“Do remember that contracting the virus does not mean that it is a death warrant,” reassures Dr Nangia. One needs to put this in perspective, and understand the symptoms and effects of the virus. Those who contract the virus will get sick with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold.
Symptoms may include-
· runny nose,
· sore throat,
· a fever that can last for a couple of days.
People who are older or have underlying health conditions seem to be most at risk of having severe disease or complications. While there’s no need to panic, people should take steps to prepare and protect themselves and others from the coronavirus.
6. Antibiotics Will Help Curb the Spread of the Virus
“Antibiotics, as the name suggests, are only used in fighting bacterial infections and not viral strains. Therefore if you are being treated by antibiotics then it will be of no use whatsoever,” says Dr Nangia. Do note that antibiotics cannot be used as a means of prevention or treatment for coronavirus cases.
As of now, there is no known vaccine or course of treatment for coronavirus and therefore those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should receive optimised supportive care, says WHO.
7. Have a Cold, Rush to the ER
“No,” says Dr Nangia. “if you just have mild symptoms, which include cold, cough and low grade fever then for the first two or three days you could probably just take symptomatic treatment, keep yourself well hydrated and oxygenated.”
Do isolate yourself in a room and minimise contact with others. Watch for some time and only in cases where the symptoms range from moderate to severe does one need to go to an approved hospital to get tested.
Moderate to extreme conditions include:
· Persistent fever
· Severe tightness in the chest
8. One Must Always be Wearing Gloves
Dr Nangia says, “It is imperative that we all understand how this virus spreads. While currently there is not enough epidemiological information to determine how easily this virus spreads between people, the virus seems to be transmitted mainly via respiratory droplets that people sneeze, cough, or exhale.”
Therefore in such a situation, wearing gloves is perhaps not the most effective manner of dealing with the virus. Dr Nangia says. “Eventually, the gloves also get contaminated.” What’s important to follow is good personal hygiene, which includes frequent washing of hands with either soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitiser.
9. Spraying Alcohol or Chlorine will Help Kill the New Coronavirus?
According to the WHO – 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.
If you want to read more about the virus and how it spreads, do click here.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)