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COVID-19 Myth Busters from the World Health Organization

As the pandemic intensifies, so too do the rumors and myths circulating online. Find out what’s true and what’s not from the WHO.

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    Anyone who has been on social media has undoubtedly read some of the misinformation going around about the novel coronavirus.  To help us separate fact from fiction, here’s what the World Health Organization has to say about what’s a myth and what’s not related to COVID-19.

    Hot, humid weather helps spread COVID-19: FALSE.

    It should not surprise too many people who live in countries where COVID-19 is now spreading, that this is not true. The virus obviously can be transmitted IN ANY CLIMATE as is evidenced by the spread throughout the northern United States, Germany, the U.K. and other countries just beginning to shed the freezing temperatures of winter.

    Cold and snow cannot kill the COVID-19 virus: TRUE.

    So far, there is no evidence to support the idea that cold and snowy weather can kill the novel coronavirus or any other disease for that matter. According to the WHO, “The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather.” The weather isn’t catching the virus, humans are.

    One reason this myth may have sprung up is that in the past, diseases like malaria (caused by a parasite) that are carried and spread by mosquitos often went away with the start of winter because the mosquitos died. Now that we know mosquitos are the carriers, appropriate measures can be taken to protect against them, and drugs and preventative treatments are now available.

    Mosquitos cannot spread COVID-19: TRUE.

    To date, no evidence has suggested that mosquitos can spread the coronavirus. This disease is a respiratory disease that spreads by airborne and other “droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.” This is in contrast to mosquito-borne malaria that infects the blood with the malaria-bearing parasite.

    A hot bath can prevent coronavirus: FALSE.

    A hot bath will get you clean and maybe even relax you, but it won’t prevent infection by the coronavirus. In fact, the WHO warns against such baths as they can actually cause burns if the water is too hot.

    Hot air from hair dryers can kill the coronavirus. FALSE.

    Not unlike a hot bath, hot air from a hairdryer CANNOT kill the coronavirus.

    Ultraviolet light from disinfection lamps can kill COVID-19 on the skin. UNSAFE.

    Ultraviolet light has been shown to be effective at killing germs and viruses on surfaces, however, the WHO does not recommend the use of ultralight light on the skin as it can cause burns, just like the sun can cause sunburn.

    Thermal scanners can detect a coronavirus infection in people. FALSE.

    Thermal scanners can detect temperature, including that of someone with a fever for any reason. However, the fever may not be caused by coronavirus. Also, it is possible to be infected with the coronavirus and exhibit no symptoms. According to the WHO, “it takes between 2 and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.” For that reason, social distancing and hand washing are the best defense for everyone to remain infection-free.

    Spraying your entire body with alcohol or chlorine will kill the coronavirus. FALSE.

    The coronavirus infects people by entering the body through the eyes and mouth. It does not enter through the skin. However, alcohol and chlorine (i.e., bleach), applied directly to the skin, can cause skin irritation, mucous membrane irritation and may damage clothing. Instead, save alcohol and chlorine products for sanitizing surfaces. Hand sanitizer containing alcohol can be applied to the skin in moderation according to these recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Eating garlic can help prevent coronavirus infection. FALSE.

    Garlic is a culinary gift and also may have some antimicrobial properties, but there is no evidence that it can prevent a coronavirus infection. Learn more about the benefits of garlic as a vitamin from WebMD.

    Antibiotics can prevent and treat coronavirus infections. FALSE.

    Antibiotics are used to effectively fight bacterial infections like strep throat and ear infections. However, antibiotics ARE NOT effective for use fighting viral infections. Find out the differences between bacterial and viral infections from the Mayo Clinic.

    Using a saline nasal rinse can help prevent coronavirus infection. FALSE.

    Although there is some evidence that nasal saline rinsing may hasten recovery from a cold, no such evidence exists for the coronavirus, which is a respiratory infection.

    The coronavirus only affects older people. FALSE.

    Coronavirus does not discriminate about who it infects. All people — regardless of age, ethnicity and other factors — can become infected. The differences lie in how sick each person becomes and while underlying conditions like COPD, asthma, or other illnesses can make the disease much worse, healthy, young, athletic people are also contracting the disease.

    In short, the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to adhere strictly to the recommendations from the CDCand the WHO:

    • Stay home.
    • Practice social distancing (stay 6 feet from others in public) if you absolutely must go out.
    • Wash hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
    • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if washing isn’t possible.
    • Self-isolate if you begin to show any coronavirus symptoms including a cough, fever, trouble breathing/shortness of breath.

    If you do experience symptoms, call your healthcare provider immediately, and follow their medical advice.

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