Since the first outbreaks began, the novel coronavirus has continued to cause disturbance around the world, inflicting unprecedented public health crisis and concerning another threat - rapidly spreading of myth and misconception.
To validate the people's feelings besides knowing all facts and information of Covid-19, it is also important to clarify and address any myth and misconception.
The false news, myths are spreading everywhere. Moreover, in this era of technologies, it takes no time to spread such types of news or ideas. Experts are still trying to figure out the exact cause of the virus and based on some research we can get limited valuable information regarding myths and misconceptions.
In this pandemic situation, we must be more careful to believe the news or share the news. Through the question and answer we can characterize the myths and misconceptions of Covid-19 that will give a transparent idea at a glance.
Is coronavirus man made?
Some people are thinking Covid-19 is produced by China lab. Basically, the truth of the origin of this virus remains elusive. But CNN spoke to more than half a dozen virus experts about the origins of the outbreak, and all of them say, those who claim to know the source of Covid-19 is only guessing because there is zero evidence the Chinese or American government purposefully introduced the new coronavirus (Kuznia and Griffin, April 6, 2020). They are claiming, till now it seems like the virus came from bats (ibid).
But in the same article it was mentioned that one expert of Rutgers University, Dr Richard Ebright told, "The possibility that the virus enters humans through a laboratory accident cannot and should not be dismissed." However, US President Donald Trump claimed that he has seen evidence that coronavirus originated in a Chinese laboratory, the Intelligence agencies in the US determined Covid-19 "was not man made or genetically modified" and they are still working to trace the origin of this virus (BBC, May 1, 2020).
An expert at the WHO, Peter Ben Embarek and other specialists also explained to the Guardian that there is no evidence that the virus is manipulated because then this should be seen in the gene sequences and also reticulation effect (Beaumont, May 1, 2020). In another statement to the Guardian, James Le Duc, the head of the Galveston National Laboratory in the US said, "There is convincing evidence that the new virus was not the result of intentional genetic engineering and that it almost certainly originated from nature, given its high similarity to other known bat-associated coronaviruses" (ibid).
So, from the above discussions we can say that this topic is very controversial, and everyone is curious to know about the origin of this virus. But the fact is that nobody could not find any evidence till now so we cannot say that the new coronavirus is manmade, or lab made or engineered. Moreover, from the expert's statements it was mentioned that they are expecting it originated from nature, like other bat associated coronavirus.
Can Malaria drugs/ Hydroxychloroquine/ Chloroquine cure or prevent Covid-19?
Several drug trials are going on but currently there are no drugs licensed for the treatment of Covid-19 or prevention of it (WHO, 2020). Although there are not any drugs to cure coronavirus, people still try to find hope in this pandemic situation. The drug that has received the most attention in treating Covid-19 is hydroxychloroquine, which was recommended by US President Donald Trump neglecting the fact that there is little data to support its use against the virus (Grady et al. April 9, 2020).
Hydroxychloroquine is a medicine to treat malaria, also used to treat autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and is closely related to chloroquine, which is also used to treat malaria (ibid). In the US Veterans Hospital, a study showed that the risk of death was more than double in those who received hydroxychloroquine and also there was not any impact on a patient's need for breathing support (Beasley, April 22, 2020).
Now there can arise a question as to why hydroxychloroquine has been considered as a treatment for Covid-19. The reason is, a laboratory study showed that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells but it did not work in the human body as it was found to be failed to treat influenza or other viral illnesses (Grady et al. April 9, 2020).
Does drinking alcohol like methanol, ethanol or bleach prevent or cure Covid-19?
Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are sometimes used to disinfect the surfaces but those should not be drunk. Because they will not kill the virus of the body rather they can harm the internal organs as they are poisons. So ultimately drinking methanol, ethanol or bleach does not prevent or cure Covid-19 and it can be dangerous (WHO, 2020). In Al Jazeera it was mentioned that it has contributed to the deaths in Iran and reported that more than 50 people have died and hundreds more were hospitalized after consuming toxic, bootleg alcohol, believing it would cure coronavirus (Singh, Mar. 30, 2020) .
Another report mentioned that more than 700 people have died in Iran after ingesting toxic methanol, erroneously thinking it can cure the new coronavirus (Al Jazeera, April 28, 2020). Besides, when US President Donald Trump raised the possibility of injecting disinfectant into patients, causing an international uproar with manufacturers, doctors and government agencies rushing out warnings against consuming disinfectants like bleach (ibid). Actually this myth came from the concept that Coronavirus is killed by anything that contains at least 60 percent ethyl alcohol or 70 percent isopropyl alcohol but these are not for drinking, these are used as hand wash or hand sanitizers (Singh, Mar. 30, 2020).
Can high temperature (Higher than 25C) prevent the Corona virus disease?
There is evidence that countries with hot weather or high temperature have reported cases of Covid-19. So, no matter how hot the weather is one may catch Covid-19. So it is none other than a myth. High temperature cannot prevent or cure Covid-19 (WHO, 2020). In CNN it was mentioned that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that generally corona viruses survive for shorter periods at high temperature and high humidity but they actually don't have any direct data for this virus and temperature-based cut off for inactivation (Yan and Andrew, May 1, 2020).
President Donald Trump also expressed that the virus could wane by the warmer season, but scientists say it is too early to decide it and the fact is that the corona virus started to spread in the Southern Hemisphere in summer months, which gives a clue that the virus might not go off to warmer or high temperatures (ibid).
Can Pneumonia vaccines or the flu vaccine protect from Coronavirus?
Pneumonia vaccines cannot protect from Coronavirus as it is a new virus, so it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against Covid-19 (WHO, 2020). Flu is caused by a different family of viruses to Covid-19, some of the symptoms also overlap (Singh, March 30, 2020). Since they are different families of viruses, there is no evidence that the flu vaccine does not have any effect on Coronavirus (ibid).
According to Harvard Medical School, "Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, only help protect people from these specific bacterial infections, they do not protect against any coronavirus pneumonia" (Yan and Andrew, May 1, 2020).
Only older people are vulnerable to the coronavirus?
The most common misconception is that only older people can get this infection and younger people are not that much vulnerable to this virus, but the recent cases give a clarification that people of any age can get affected by Covid-19, there is no age differential to get this virus (WHO, 2020). Rather we can say that the older people are more vulnerable to this virus because of their immune system. Whenever people start to grow older, they are more likely to develop various health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, lung conditions and cancer (Khan, 29 March 2020). Till now we rely on our immune systems to treat this virus, to recognise it as a foreign agent and destroy it and one of the most recognised consequences of ageing is a decline in this immune function (ibid). But that does not mean that younger people are free from the risk.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of WHO warned the younger people saying, "You are not invincible. This virus could put you in hospital for weeks, or even kill you. People under 50 make up a significant proportion of patients requiring hospitalisation" (Khan, April 1, 2020). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the report that the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people, but younger people are making up a big portion of hospitalizations (Karimi, March 19, 2020). Dr Deborah Birx said that now everyone is concerned about the reports that young people are becoming seriously ill from the virus and it suggests that they continued to be exposed to the virus because they weren't concerned about the risk (ibid). In addition, below there is a graph which shows that old age people are more vulnerable to die if they are affected by coronavirus (Roberts, April 16, 2020).
Can cow urine prevent Covid-19?
Some Hindu groups in India believe that cow urine has medicinal properties and cow urine can ward off coronavirus, but no experts claim this statement that cow urine can help to protect from coronavirus (BBC News, 23Mar. 2020). In India, a well-known Hindu nationalist group held a cow urine drinking party believing that the urine has medicinal properties and it can drive away the coronavirus (Gettleman, March 17, 2020).
Moreover, it is a matter of wonder that many party leaders and legislators have agreed with this statement (ibid). Om Prakash, a person who attended the cow urine party said, "We have been drinking cow urine for 21 years, we also take bath in cow dung. We have never felt the need to consume English medicine" (Siddiqui, Mar. 14, 2020). But experts have repeatedly claimed that cow urine does not have any medicinal properties to cure cancer and also no evidence that it can prevent coronavirus (ibid).
Does Smoker have less chance to get coronavirus?
According to WHO smoking is one of the leading causes of death in the world, killing more than eight million people a year and now, it is thought that smoking can also make people more vulnerable to the coronavirus and it can develop serious complications (Kayat, April 22, 2020). The head of a Turkish anti-addiction group told Anadolu Agency that smokers are 14 times more likely to contract coronavirus compared to those who do not (Al Jazeera, April 16, 2020). Professor Mucahit Ozturk, president of anti-addiction group Turkish Green Crescent said, "Using tobacco and tobacco products increases the risk of catching the coronavirus, therefore, avoiding all addictive substances plays an important role in protecting ourselves against the virus" (ibid).
Dr Winickoff, a professor at Harvard Medical School explained, "You bring this device (e-cigarette) or cigarette to your mouth to inhale and you do so repeatedly, you touch the cartridge. You put it next to your face. You are spreading whatever is in your hand into your body. At the same time, many of my patients who smoke or vape have increased coughing or expectorating. And that is a recipe for increased spread" (Hoffman, April 19, 2020). The World Health Organization (WHO) also agreed that smokers are likely to be more vulnerable because the fingers of them are in close contact with the lips, thus it increases the possibility of hand-to-mouth transmission (Al Jazeera, 16 April 2020). Moreover, many studies already showed that cigarette smoking weakens the immune system and compromises lung activity (ibid). Professor Oz Turk also mentioned that smoking weakens the immune system and it has negative impacts on coronavirus treatment (Al Jazeera, April 16, 2020).
Virus lays egg in throat and so drinks hot water/drink - is it true?
Some people think coronavirus lays eggs in the throat, so from their viewpoint if someone drinks hot water, tea or coffee might kill the virus. Also, several sources claimed that to the contrary today on social media and privately electronic messaging apps advise fake health recommendations that are being shared. One also claims that hot water would be enough to guard individuals from the virus even diode the global organization Children's Fund (UNICEF) to issue a press release to mention that it had not returned from them (Gray, April 4, 2020).
On the contrary, Ron Eccles, an expert in respiratory diseases at Cardiff University in the UK and former director of the Common Cold Centre said, "There is no evidence that hot drinks will protect against viral infections," (Gray, April 4, 2020). In addition, another source showed that the virus SARS-CoV-2 enters the body through mouth or nose, from there they go down into the lung's air sacs, alveoli (Routley, April 11, 2020). Once the virus reaches the alveoli, it "hijacks" cells by using distinctive spike proteins, then virus RNA has entered a cell, made new copies and in this process it kills the cell, releasing new viruses to infect the other cells (ibid). So basically this concept is untrue that the virus lays eggs in the throat so drinking hot water doesn't have any effect to wash it away from the throat. In an article of BBC, it has claimed that hot water can't prevent coronavirus that simply means that the virus cannot be washed away by drinking water or gargling liquid regularly (Gray, April 4, 2020).
Can you get re-infected with coronavirus?
Experts are still now trying to figure out the main reason about the reinfection cases whether it happens or any issue of the accuracy in test kits. According to an article of Al Jazeera it is found that "Japanese government reported a woman in Osaka had tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, weeks after recovering from the infection and being discharged from a hospital" (Mandavilli, 21 Feb, 2020). According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) claimed that in South Korea, 163 people were given coronavirus retested positive after recovering and health officials are trying to point out the main reason for this (Hancocks, et al. April 18, 2020).
In the same article the KCDC said, "In South Korea, the proportion of cases that retest positive is low of the 7,829 people who have recovered from coronavirus there, 2.1 percent retested positive,' 'but they are not clear about the number of cases that have recovered and tested again (ibid). According to a source in Japan, a woman's case patient tested positive for a second time after being discharged from hospital which is confirmed by the health ministry (The Guardian, February 27, 2020). So from the above discussions and cases it is clear that if you get infected and cured, you can be infected by the new coronavirus again, because of everyone should be careful in any circumstances.
In conclusion, Covid-19 is a global pandemic and still now there is no vaccine for prevention, so people need to be conscious of what to do or what avoid. Besides, it is recommended also to keep alert about the Myths and misconceptions of Covid-19. For better protection one must need to know the facts. To get correct information regarding the virus people should study till now which information is given in credible sources not to follow or share anything without knowing the source. And keep in mind some points and follow them: Coronavirus is transmitted through the droplets, when the infected person sneezes, coughs or speaks. Besides people can be infected by touching the contaminated surfaces then their mouth, eyes or nose without washing hands.
To protect yourself from the virus, keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others, wash hands frequently with soap and water, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing. If you have cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care by contacting an appropriate health care facility. These are the most effective interventions mentioned by WHO and other experts to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus infection. Besides, we all should follow the instructions given by our respective Governments.
Sadia Afrose Meem, Student, Bachelor of Public Health, Asian University for Women
Sumaiya Tabassum Suhee, Student, Bachelor of Public Health, Asian University for Women
Dr Nazmul Alam, Associate Professor of Public Health, Asian University for Women