Debunking Some Myths About COVID-19


By Henrylito D. Tacio

Truth, someone said, is stranger than fiction.  But in some instances, what is fiction can be real.

“Fiction is written with reality and reality is written with fiction,” wrote C. JoyBell C. (seems to be a fictious name).  “We can write fiction because there is reality and we can write reality because there is fiction; everything we consider today to be myth and legend, our ancestors believed to be history and everything in our history includes myths and legends.”

There is a fine line between real and fiction.  Sylvia C. Browne was an American author who claimed to be a medium with psychic ability.  Before she died in 2013, she had written (with Lindsay Harrison) a book entitled, End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World.

In the said book, she predicted of a pneumonia outbreak that would ravage the world.  “In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments.”

It seems she had seen the future.  At first, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was just an outbreak in Wuhan, where all this imbroglio commenced in late December last year.  Then, it became an epidemic when it extended to other parts of the globe by January the World Health Organization (WHO) called it “a public health emergency of international concern.”  Last March 11, it was officially called a pandemic.

“All around the world, people are taking necessary precautions to protect themselves and their families from coronavirus,” said Dr. Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, deputy executive director for partnerships for United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  “Sound preparation, based on scientific evidence, is what is needed at this time.”

While many people are sharing information about the virus and how to protect against it, “only some of that information is useful and reliable,” Gornitzka pointed out, adding that “misinformation during times of a health crisis can spread paranoia, fear, and stigmatization.  It can also result in people being left unprotected or more vulnerable to the virus.”

For instance, there was this video circulating on social media claiming that COVID-19 can be defeated by eating banana.  “It’s definitely NOT TRUE that bananas will kill (the) COVID-19 virus,” wrote G Talks Dr. Gia Sison in a Twitter post.  “Wala pong evidence-based medical studies dito.  Please bust this fake claim.”

Dr. Willie T. Ong, a former senatorial candidate, also debunked it.  In his Facebook post, he said that those rumors are false. “Ang saging ay masustansyang prutas.  Pero hindi pang-gamot ang saging sa COVID-19.  Mali po!”

Aside from banana, there are some people who believe that eating garlic can prevent infection with COVID-19 virus.  Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties.  In fact, some studies show that it can be effectively used in the treatment of tuberculosis.

But not COVID-19.  “There is no evidence from the current pandemic that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus,” says the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO).

In the beginning of the disease, there was this myth that the reason why the Philippines was free from COVID-19 cases was because of its hot and humid climates.  The viral disease was rampaging at that time in countries with cold weather.  “From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including places with hot and humid weather,” WHO claims.

In like manner, taking a hot bath does not prevent a person from being infected with the novel coronavirus. “Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you,” the WHO says.

Cold weather and snow also cannot kill the virus.  “There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases,” the United Nations health agency explains.  “The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather.”

There are parents who are paranoid that their children might be infected when bitten by mosquitoes which has bitten a person carrying the SARS-CoV-2 (as the COVID-19 is called). The WHO says that since it was first identified, no information exist that mosquitoes can transmit it just like dengue fever.

According to the WHO, it is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from being infected is to clean your hands frequently with alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.  Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.

Some people think that hand dryers are effective in killing the virus.  Such claim is a myth.  Just as ultraviolet disinfection lamp can obliterate the COVID-19 virus.  “UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation,” the WHO reminds.

Since alcohol can keep the virus at bay, there are some who believe that spraying alcohol all over the body can kill the virus.  Untrue.  “Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body,” the WHO says.  “Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (that is, eyes and mouth).  Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.”

There are also some talks that children are not most likely to be infected with the new coronavirus is because they have been vaccinated against pneumonia.  So, adults who will be vaccinated with such vaccines can never be infected with SARS-CoV-2.

That’s not true either.  “Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B vaccine do not provide protection against the new coronavirus,” the WHO points out.  “The virus is so new and different and it needs its own vaccine.”

COVID-19 is no age respecter.  “People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus,” WHO says.  “Older people, 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.”

Regularly rinsing the nose with saline does not help prevent infection with the virus.  “There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold,” the WHO says.  “However, regularly rinsing the nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections” – like COVID-19.

Some people think antibiotics prevent and treat COVID-19.  Antibiotics work only against bacteria; as such, it cannot be used against coronavirus.  “Antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment,” the WHO says.  But for those who are hospitalized for COVID-19, they may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

A few Filipinos believe that only poor people are infected with COVID-19 virus.  Such is a myth.  No one is spared from the disease.  Last March 17, multi-awarded Filipino actor Christopher de Leon admitted, on Instagram, that he was tested positive for the dreaded coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“Today, our doctor confirmed that I have COVID-19,” he wrote.  “I’ve had no recent travel history outside of the Philippines and no known contact with anyone who is positive to have the virus.  However, due to the nature of my work in the entertainment business, I have interacted with many people.”

The actor, who is currently appearing in the television series, Love Thy Woman, urged those who has come in contact with him “to observe stringent self-quarantine, observe for symptoms and follow the triage procedures published by DOH (Department of Health), whether asymptomatic or not.”

De Leon is the first Filipino actor to have come out of being infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus the causes COVID-19.  In Hollywood, two-time Oscar winning actor Tom Hanks and his actress wife, Rita Wilson, also confirmed that they had been infected with the virus while in Australia while shooting an untitled movie about the life of Elvis Presley.

Kristofer Hivju, of Games of Thrones distinction, was also tested positive for the virus.  He self-quarantined himself in Norway with his family. “Sorry to say that I, today, have tested positive for COVID19, Corona virus,” he wrote on Instagram. “My family and I are self-isolating at home for as long as it takes. We are in good health – I only have mild symptoms of a cold.”

Ukraine-born actress and model Olga Kurylenko, who appeared in such movies like Quantum of Solace, Hitman and Oblivion, was also tested positive.  In an Instagram post, she wrote: “Locked up at home after tested positive for coronavirus. I’ve been ill for almost a week now.  Fever and fatigue are my main symptoms.”

In a video shared to this Twitter, Idris Elba also announced that he was tested positive for COVID-19 after coming in contact with someone who had it. “This is serious. Now’s the time to really think about social distancing, washing your hands,” he said.  “Beyond that, there are people out there who aren’t showing symptoms, and that can easily spread it.”

Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged all people around the world to do something to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  “Don’t assume your community won’t be affected,” he said in a press briefing in Geneva.  “Prepare as f it will be.  Don’t assume you won’t be infected.  Prepare as if you will be.”

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