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Addressing the Rumours (Coronavirus/COVID-19)

Coronavirus 19. Photo: World Health Organisation

We've seen the hysteria, the bulk-buying of canned goods, the rumours circulating on social media and thought it was time we bring some light to some of the rumours we've seen flying around about Coronavirus. We asked on our Twitter about the myths that you've heard and here's our response; we address them using reliable sources (linked at the end of the article).

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that are known to cause respiratory infections in humans such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and now Coronavirus Disease 19 (COV-19). COVID-19 is the most recently discovered coronavirus-related disease that has been declared a pandemic this month by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Myth 1: Scientists made coronavirus

Is it possible for scientists to make a virus? Yes.

Biological warfare is definitely something we should all be worried about. However, the high survival rate and the relatively slow spread of COVID-19 would force us to believe that that this myth is an unlikely truth. Before the outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019, there was no record of COVID-19. The first time human coronavirus was identified was in 2003 as the COV that causes SARS coronavirus so technically coronavirus isn’t ‘new’.

Try and think of viruses as being ‘alive’; they have the ability to evolve so 'new' viruses are formed.

The reason why COVID-19 is a lot more dangerous than other coronaviruses is that it is able to get further down in the respiratory system than other coronaviruses causing symptoms such as coughing and shortness of breath.

When speaking more with our followers we realised that there may be other reasons as to why people have such distrust in the scientific community. The full conversation is over on our Twitter.

Myth 2: If I put on antibacterial gel, I’ll be fine...

Anti-bacterial gels are great for fighting bacteria but as it says in the name, coronaVIRUS is a viral disease so antibacterial may not be as effective as you hope it to be. Washing your hands (and bodies) with soap is a much better solution. There is no harm in using anti-bacterial as well but be mindful that the virus can most definitely survive repeated applications of antibacterial gel.

Myth 3: I need to wear a face mask!

Face masks are common forms of respiratory protective equipment (RPE) used by scientists when they may be working with hazardous substances. RPEs are also often used by professionals who may come in contact with hazardous airborne chemicals. Do you need it on a regular basis? Airborne transmission of COVID-19 hasn't been confirmed (and isn't suspected) so wearing a face-mask may not the best form of protection. COVID-19 is spread through the respiratory droplets of an infected person - they expel these when they cough or sneeze, for example.

Myth 4: Black people are immune to COVID-19

This one shocked us the most. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that black people are immune to COVID-19. Whilst these claims are probably made in jest, claims like this can be damaging (read more about this in an article by Brentin Mock, Citylab). Unfortunately, COVID-19 has already infected and claimed the lives of a number of black people. As it stands, there is no evidence that black people are immune from COVID-19.

At this point, it is important to note that older people, diabetics and people with heart and lung disease may be more at risk so careful precautions should be taken.

Myth 5: I need to self-quarantine

If you don’t feel unwell, UK health officials aren’t stressing that you need to self-quarantine. However, if you do feel unwell (and have been in a space where COVID-19 is spreading in the last two weeks), it is recommended that you remain at home. Upon presenting more serious symptoms, contact health services and they’ll be able to direct you in a way that will get you the most effective care.

What precautions should we follow then?

According to WHO, sensible precautions include:

  • Washing hands regularly with soap and water or clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub when outdoors

Soap and alcohol are good defences against the virus. Just water or antibacterial without alcohol won’t do much again COVID-19.

  • Keep a meter away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing

This prevents you from breathing in infected droplets

  • Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes and mouth

Your hands are likely dirty and if they’ve come in contact with infected droplets you can transfer them and you ingest them, making yourself sick

  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze/cough!

You’d think this was common practice but if this COVID-19 outbreak has shown us anything, it's that a lot of peoples’ personal hygiene is lacking. Like, making an effort to sneeze into your elbow or tissue that you can throw away immediately.

Please note: Using face masks when you don’t need them can cause shortages for people who do need them, i.e. health care providers who come in contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

We hope that we have helped in debunking some of the myths that have been spreading about COVID19. Our only aim was to reduce some of the stresses and worries and to give you some factual information from reputable sources. Always remember to do your own research and act accordingly. It is important that you don't buy into myths as this can do more harm than good.

Here are some reliable, and accessible, sources of COVID-19 news

Please remember that while fatalities are relatively low, when speaking about COVID-19 there are real lives at risk. Be sensitive, safe, take precautions and try not to panic.

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