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Anytime there is a new sickness going around, rumors and false claims start to get out of hand. Fake cures, bad advice, and outrageous claims are incredibly common, especially with the sheer amount of disinformation on the web.
COVID-19 is the newest conspiracy theory magnet, so we documented the five most ridiculous claims about COVID-19 and the truth behind the misinformation.
Myth #1: COVID-19 is ‘Just a Flu”
Many have tried to downplay the severity of the virus by claiming it is simply a type of flu with similar effects. While it is true that COVID-19 and the common flu have similar symptoms and transmission pathways, they are extremely different.
COVID-19 is caused by a novel virus called SARS-CoV-2 while the flu is caused by the influenza family of viruses. Additionally, COVID-19 is connected with permanent damage to the brain, kidneys, and lungs, while the flu is usually not associated with lasting permanent damage in the brain, kidneys, heart, and lungs. Lastly, there is no working vaccine or antiviral treatment for COVID-19 while there is for the flu.
Myth 2: “Masks Don’t Help Reduce the Spread of Infection”
This is the mother of all COVID-19 “alternative facts.” Many claim that mask mandates and social distancing measures haven’t done anything to mitigate the spread of the virus. These claims are not only false but dangerous.
First of all, masks can slow the spread of infection by blocking one of the most common pathways of transmission; respiratory droplets. It’s proven that a simple cloth barrier can block the majority of respiratory droplets produced when a person speaks. Similar studies on influenza show that surgical and even self-made masks significantly reduce virus transmission through airborne pathways.
Besides, real-world epidemiological data shows clearly: masks work and prevent the spread of disease. One study in the journal Health Affairs showed that simple mask mandates were effective at slowing growth rates almost immediately.
Myth #3. “The Virus Only Affects the Elderly”
This is another particularly damaging myth. While it is true that the elderly are the most at-risk for the virus, this is the case for practically any other disease or condition. Moreover, there is growing evidence that children, adolescents, and young adults are just as much at risk for infection, although the symptoms tend to be less severe.
Myth #4: “COVID-19 is Airborne”
COVID-19 is NOT an airborne virus, or at least, not airborne as people think it is. COVID-19 can be spread by air through respiratory droplets but it cannot be circulated through the air with the wind, like diseases such as TB or smallpox. The degree to which air currents have affected the spread of the disease is still up for debate.
There is good evidence that air purifiers can reduce the spread of disease. Some of them contain medical-grade filters that will filter out respiratory droplets that transmit COVID-19.
Myth #5: “Drinking Alcohol Can Destroy the Virus in Your Body”
This myth was common a few months ago. Alcohol can indeed disinfect surfaces and is capable of killing some viruses, but alcohol works differently inside the body. Alcohol will not “sanitize“ the inside of your body and won’t kill any viruses.
There is also evidence that heavy alcohol use can weaken immune system function.
Not to mention that drinking highly concentrated alcohol products (especially if they contain methanol) can cause other problems and even kill you.
Misinformation in the face of a global pandemic is flat out dangerous and should not be encouraged. These are just a few of the numerous myths spread about COVID-19, so make sure you are diligent and check any claims about the virus with disease agencies and medical bodies.