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Updated: Help fight the spread of coronavirus myths

April 24, 2020
Pet Myths (250)

You’re hearing about coronavirus on the news, on the radio, at work, and among your friends and family.

With all of this talk about COVID-19, it can be difficult to sift through all the information.

Baystate Health experts are here to help you determine what’s fact versus fiction.

“One of the best things you can do is stay informed by following trustworthy sources including the Centers for Disease Control, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and your local health experts,” says Dr. Armando Paez, chief of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Medical Center.

Disinfectants cannot be used in or on the human body

Injecting or otherwise ingesting disinfectants—which are highly toxic—is deadly and will not cure COVID-19.

The World Health Organization further clarifies that spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body:

“Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes (i.e. eyes, mouth). Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.”

UV lamps should not be used to sterilize the human body

Ultraviolet disinfection lamps are not proven to kill the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization:

“UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.”

It is safe—and recommended—to go to the hospital in an emergency

Many people are afraid of getting infected with the virus while in the hospital, and are avoiding going to the emergency department even in life-threatening situations.

Emergencies should still be treated as such during this time. Call 911 and seek emergency care if you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, like those associated with a heart attack or stroke.

COVID-19 spreads more rapidly and is more deadly than the seasonal flu

"It's about ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu," according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

NPR compiled similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu.

No matter what your race, you can get sick

The Center for Disease Control points out people of Asian descent are not more likely to have coronavirus than anyone else.

Make sure children especially know this to prevent bullying in schools, particularly as people become more anxious of the spreading disease.

Sharing this fact with others and correcting people if they are spreading misinformation will help stop fear.

It’s also important to note that you also can’t get COVID-19 from eating Chinese food.

Your risk from handling mail and packages is low

Your packages are safe to handle, but that does not mean you shouldn’t take precautions.

A New England Journal of Medicine study found that the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours.

After handling mail, simply dispose of the packaging and wash your hands. Another option is to simply let your mail sit for 24 hours before touching it.

This article in the New York Times provides information on the different ways you can (and cannot) be exposed.

You cannot use a thermometer to tell if someone has coronavirus

Thermal scanners or thermometers can detect fever, not coronavirus.

Having a higher than normal body temperature could be a symptom of other illnesses, like the flu. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID-19.

Coronavirus symptoms can take between 2 to 14 days to emerge. They include fever and lower respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and cough. Call your doctor's office, emergency department, or urgent care if you have a fever and respiratory symptoms. Testing for COVID-19 will be recommended if appropriate.

Your pets can be infected with COVID-19

The virus started from an animal source. The first known case of an animal having COVID-19 was a tiger at the New York City zoo. We now know that your furry friends may also be at risk.

The CDC says a few pets have been infected with COVID-19. Many of the infected pets didn’t show the symptoms we typically see in infected people.

Pets in close contact with someone infected with the novel coronavirus are at a higher risk.

The CDC suggests treating your pets like any other family member.

  • Don’t let other people pet your animals.
  • Avoid dog parks.
  • Keep your cats indoors.
  • On walks, keep your dog six feet from other people.
  • If someone is sick in your house, don’t let your pet near the infected person.

It’s still a good idea to disinfect surfaces and wash your hands properly after handling your pets. Doing this helps stop bacteria that can pass from pets to their families, such as E.coli and Salmonella.

You should be prepared, but stockpiling supplies is not helpful

The CDC does recommend being prepared (especially the elderly, who are considered most vulnerable to the complications of COVID-19). This doesn’t mean hoarding an unnecessary amount of supplies. You can reference the CDC’s checklist for preparing your household, which includes making a plan of action, and having several weeks of medications and supplies on hand in case you need to stay home. This New York Times article outlines the best way to stock your pantry.

Studies show stress can actually reduce your immune response. Planning ahead can help reduce anxiety by giving you a sense of control.

Baystate Medical Center psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Anfang says “The biggest thing we have to fear is fear itself…too much fear and panic is only going to get in our way as we try to handle this medically.”

Facemasks are recommended, but will not protect you from coronavirus

The CDC recommends everyone wear a facemask when social distancing (keeping a six feet distance between you and other people) is difficult. This includes when going to the grocery store or pharmacy. These face covers should not be N95 masks or surgical mask, as this can take away resources for medical professionals.

A homemade mask does not guarantee you can never get infected with coronavirus. You should still try to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

But new data shows wearing a mask can help protect other people if you have COVID-19 but are not showing symptoms.

If you have COVID-19, you could experience mild to severe symptoms

The CDC warns that certain people are at higher risk including:

  • Older adults
  • People with serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease

There are emergency warning signs that require immediate medical attention such as:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion or inability to get up
  • Bluish lips or face

Even if you feel healthy, you should look out for other, vulnerable Americans by washing your hands and practicing social distancing.

Protect yourself from COVID-19 misinformation

Myths spread quickly, especially on the internet. There is so much misinformation out there that it is impossible to keep up with debunking it all.

That’s why it is so important to check your sources and turn to reliable publications for answers to your questions. When you hear a new claim from someone other than a doctor or trusted authority, examine it before sharing it or taking it as fact.

Here are some reliable, expert sources on COVID-19: