The coronavirus pandemic spawns a raft of myths.
When AIDS began rampaging through major U.S. cities in the early 1980s, it wasn’t long before conspiracy theories sprouted. One widely repeated and baseless rumor had it that scientists working for the CIA had created HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as part of an experiment that spun out of control. So it perhaps should be no surprise that a raft of myths and conspiracy theories are circulating online in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Unfortunately, it’s common for myths or misconceptions to arise when public health crises occur due to the volume of information that begins circulating,” says Dr. Hamid S. Syed, an acute care and primary care physician at Reagan Medical Center in Gwinnett County, Georgia.
With the advent of the internet and social media, conspiracy theories and myths can spread much faster today than they did when the AIDS crisis first hit. Be skeptical of medical claims that don’t come from credible sources. “It’s important to pay attention to credible health experts like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization to ensure the information you’re consuming and following is accurate,” Syed says.
Here are 12 coronavirus myths:
Only older people can be infected with the coronavirus.
Anyone at any age is at risk of getting infected, says Brandon Brown, an associate professor in the Center for Healthy Communities at the UC Riverside School of Medicine in Riverside, California.
It’s true that coronavirus is most likely to severely affect people over age 65 and individuals with underlying health conditions, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes and chronic heart disease. People in those groups are more likely to have a severe and sometimes fatal illness from a coronavirus infection. But anyone can be infected and pass on the virus, Brown says.
African-Americans are immune from being infected.
The idea that African-Americans are immune from the coronavirus is a myth that has appeared on social media. “Everyone is at risk,” Brown says.
Drinking alcohol can protect you from the coronavirus.
Consuming alcoholic beverages will not protect you from contracting the virus or its effects, Brown says. In fact, in Iran, dozens of people have died from alcohol poisoning after drinking bootleg booze to try to shield themselves from the coronavirus, according to the official Iranian news agency.
If you drink a lot of water you won’t get the coronavirus.
While it’s good to stay well-hydrated, and that can be part of the treatment of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — hydration alone will not prevent you from contracting the virus, Syed says.
I need to wash my hands with special soap.
There’s no need to buy soaps that are marketed as “medical” or to only use “antibacterial” soaps, Syed says. Washing your hands often, for 20 seconds with soap and water, is one of the best ways to prevent being infected with the coronavirus. Regular soap is fine.
Going to a place that’s warm can lower my chances of infection.
If you think taking a trip to a sun-drenched vacation spot like the Bahamas or Mexico can shield you from the coronavirus, think again. Being in a warm place — or a cold location — doesn’t affect your risk of infection, Syed says. “It really does not matter if it’s cold or warm outside,” he says. “Right now, traveling may not be a good idea because that usually involves going through crowded places, and that increases your chances of getting infected or transmitting the virus to other people.”
Health experts and government officials are advising individuals and families to maintain space between themselves and others to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Experts recommend maintaining a space of at least 6 feet.
If I become infected with coronavirus, I’ll die.
In reality, only a small percentage of people who become ill with COVID-19 will die, says Rebecca Cowan, a core faculty member in Walden University’s MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. Walden University is in Minneapolis.
About 80% of those who are infected with the coronavirus experience only a mild illness, she says. Some people will contract the illness and be asymptomatic.
Aiming a blow dryer up your nostrils can destroy the coronavirus.
There’s no truth to the idea that the heat from a hair dryer can get rid of the coronavirus. “If this worked, we would’ve been using it and instituting clinical trials with blow dryers rather than worrying about ventilators and ICU beds,” says Dr. Amna Husain, a board-certified pediatrician with Pure Direct Pediatrics. She’s based in Marlboro, New Jersey.
The coronavirus is airborne.
The coronavirus isn’t airborne — you can’t get it merely by breathing the same air as an infected person, Husain says. Health officials say the primary mode of transmission occurs when an infected person coughs or sneezes on someone.
Antibiotics can prevent you from getting COVID-19.
This is not true, says Dr. Kecia Gaither, director of perinatal services at NYC Health + Hospitals/Lincoln in New York City. There currently isn’t a vaccine to prevent you from getting COVID-19, nor are there any anti-viral medications to treat the disease, she says.
Spreading herbal oils on your body can prevent you from getting the disease.
While spreading herbal oil on your body can hydrate your skin and make you smell good, it does nothing to shield you from getting COVID-19, Gaither says.
Eating garlic or salt will shield you from contracting coronavirus.
There’s no reason to believe eating garlic or salt — or anything else — will shield you from the coronavirus, says Roslyn Stone, chief operating officer of Zero Hour Health in Stamford, Connecticut. “Many people are stress-eating salty things, and maybe this is some people’s way of justifying that,” Stone says. “We’ve been asked repeatedly if eating salt or garlic protects you, since there is some crazy social media post getting shared. But sadly, it’s not true.”
To recap, here are 12 coronavirus myths:
— Only older people can be infected with the coronavirus.
— African-Americans are immune from being infected.
— Drinking alcohol can protect you from the coronavirus.
— If I drink a lot of water I won’t get the coronavirus.
— I need to wash my hands with special soap.
— Going to a place that’s warm can lower my chances of infection.
— If I become infected with coronavirus, I’ll die.
— Aiming a blow dryer up your nostrils can destroy the coronavirus.
— The coronavirus is airborne.
— Antibiotics can prevent you from getting COVID-19.
— Spreading herbal oils on your body can prevent you from getting the disease.
— Eating garlic or salt can shield you from contracting coronavirus.