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Fact or Fiction?
Everywhere you turn, someone is talking about Coronavirus COVID-19. Since the virus is such a hot topic of conversation, it has generated a lot of rumors and misinformation, especially on social media. Dr. Lara Jaussi, Chief Clinical Officer for the Laurel Health Centers, breaks down some of the most common myths surrounding COVID-19 and the truth about how you can best protect yourself, your family, and your community.
Myth: Coronavirus (COVID-19) is less serious than seasonal flu.
Truth: The new strain of Coronavirus we call COVID-19 is much more easily transmitted than seasonal influenza and is significantly more serious. It has a longer incubation period (i.e., the period of time between coming into contact with the virus and when symptoms present), more transmission from those without symptoms, and is at least ten times deadlier than seasonal flu. The flu has been with us for a long time, and we have developed effective preventive measures and treatments for it. COVID-19 is new, and we do not currently have treatments for it beyond managing symptoms. Don’t panic, but take prevention seriously. The best way to keep COVID-19 manageable is to slow the spread right now and that means everyone needs to follow the recommended guidelines of frequent hand washing, social distancing, and staying home.
Myth: COVID-19 isn’t a risk to young, healthy people.
Truth: COVID-19 can affect people of all ages. While seniors, the immunocompromised, and chronically ill patients are at greater risk for complications, COVID-19 has seriously sickened and even killed young, healthy people without underlying conditions. Just because you are at lower risk doesn’t mean you are at no risk. We are still learning how COVID-19 affects each population and seemingly healthy people can still transmit the virus, so it is critical that everyone practice social distancing by staying six feet apart from others. Avoid groups and travel only for essential needs (e.g., a weekly grocery trip instead of a daily trip). This helps us protect the most vulnerable in our communities and slows the spread to keep healthcare workers from becoming overwhelmed by a big jump in sick patients.
Myth: Social distancing doesn’t apply if everyone’s well.
Truth: Social distancing applies to everyone not living in your household on a daily basis, and you must practice it even when you think everyone is well. Why? Because even people who feel well can have COVID-19. It has a long incubation period, and people who have very mild or no symptoms at all can still spread the virus. For now, you should avoid play dates, gatherings, public transportation, and visiting with family / friends, especially those who are older, ill, or compromised like cancer patients or those with a chronic disease like asthma or diabetes. Instead, stay connected virtually using video chat, social media, text, and phone calls.
Myth: You can only transmit the disease if you are symptomatic.
Truth: Some people who catch COVID-19 do not show symptoms. These patients are called “asymptomatic,” which means that they carry and spread the virus without showing the expected symptoms themselves. The symptoms most associated with COVID-19 are fever, shortness of breath, dry cough, and diarrhea, but not everyone will experience all these symptoms or with the same severity.
Myth. Holding your breath for 10 seconds can determine if you have the virus early on.
Truth: Holding your breath is not a suitable way to determine if you have COVID-19, lung damage, or lung disease. Your doctor must perform a series of more in-depth tests to accurately determine your lung function. If you’re having difficulty breathing for any reason, call your healthcare provider right away. Patients are always advised to call ahead to their clinic or ER for guidance instead of simply showing up, as walking in without warning can expose staff and other patients.
Myth: Everyone should wear a respirator mask.
Truth: To mask or not to mask…that is the question! It’s important to remember that COVID-19 is new and as a result, you can expect preventive guidelines to change as scientists learn more about how it behaves. Experts now recommend wearing cloth masks in public settings, such as when picking up essential items and grocery shopping. Respirators are only recommended for healthcare workers performing procedures on COVID-19 patients that put them at higher risk of exposure.
Understanding the new masking recommendations: The goal of wearing a cloth mask in public is to keep asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people from spreading COVID-19 when they don’t know they have it by stopping more of their cough, sneeze, or breath in public areas where it’s harder to maintain six feet of distance (e.g., a grocery store checkout line). If you feel sick, stay home. Wearing a cloth mask doesn’t mean you should relax any other strategies; staying home as often as you can, social distancing, and hand washing are still the most important preventive measures you can take.
Myth: Hot liquids or showers can kill the coronavirus.
Truth: Drinking very hot liquids or taking a very hot shower will not kill the virus and can badly scald you. The best way to protect yourself is to frequently clean your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds. Hum “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice to make sure you’re spending enough time at the sink.
Myth: COVID-19 was created in a laboratory.
Truth: There is no evidence that COVID-19 was created in a laboratory. Coronaviruses are a large category of viruses with many different strains, and those strains evolve naturally over time. In the past, other strains of Coronavirus like SARs and MERs have naturally developed that affect people more seriously. Officials are still investigating the earliest identified cases to pinpoint exactly how and when COVID-19 began to spread from person to person.
How can I stop the spread of these myths?
You can do your part to help stop the spread of misinformation by visiting and sharing information from official COVID-19 sources like the PA Dept. of Health (health.pa.gov) and the CDC (cdc.gov). For the latest COVID-19 updates and recommendations from the Laurel Health Centers, visit the us online at laurelhc.org or facebook.com/laurelhc.
Writing: Lara Jaussi, DO, Chief Clinical Officer & Family Medicine Physician / Laurel Health Centers
Produced by Vogt Media
Home Page Sponsors: Laurel Health Centers, Jim & Mary McIlvaine