The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service turned to experts from the Texas A&M AgriLife Research – Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases, IIAD, in College Station for some guidance on what is fact versus fiction surrounding COVID-19. You can find additional AgriLife Extension myths and responses online.
The following experts compiled medical and governmental resources in contributing to this report: Melissa Hefferin Berquist, Ph.D., IIAD director; Sarah Caffey, MPH, IIAD program manager; Jessica Cargill, MPH, IIAD assistant director; Carrie Hunt, Ph.D., IIAD associate research scientist; and Heather Simmons, DVM, MSVPH, IIAD associate director, AgriLife Extension associate department head and Extension program leader for Veterinary Medical Extension.
Who is affected, and how dangerous is COVID-19?
Anyone can catch the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. The elderly and people with compromised immune systems or preexisting medical conditions are especially vulnerable, but anyone can catch and spread COVID-19, even if they have no symptoms.
MYTH: COVID-19 is no more dangerous than seasonal flu
FACT: While many people who get COVID-19 may only experience cold or flu-like symptoms or may even be asymptomatic, current estimates of the mortality rate are thought to be higher than that of most strains of the seasonal flu. Especially important to realize is that, unlike the flu, humans do not have any immunity to COVID-19, and vaccines and treatment options are many months away, at a minimum, from being available.
MYTH: The new coronavirus only affects older people
FACT: Anyone is at risk of getting COVID-19. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is true that those at higher risk include older adults and people with serious chronic medical conditions. It is important to know symptoms can range from mild to severe, and individuals may have different complications. The CDC has a list of COVID-19 symptoms you may experience. Please continue to follow the official information from the CDC.
What can be done as far as medical prevention and treatment of COVID-19?
We currently can only treat symptoms of the disease. There is no vaccine or cure, and we do not know how long it will be until an effective vaccine is developed.
MYTH: There are medicines available to prevent and/or treat COVID-19
FACT: Currently, there are no recommended medications to prevent or treat COVID-19. Medical professionals may prescribe medications to relieve and treat the symptoms of individuals who become infected with the virus.
MYTH: A vaccine to cure COVID-19 is available
FACT: There is currently no vaccine for the new coronavirus. Scientists are busy working on potential candidates but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in humans takes many months. It is important to realize that vaccines prevent diseases; they do not cure diseases. A vaccine works by “teaching” your immune system what the virus looks like so that your body can be ready to recognize it and fight it off if needed in the future. So, to be effective, the vaccine must be given prior exposure to the virus. This is precisely why social distancing is so important – so we may slow the spread of the virus and limit the number of people who are exposed until we can develop and distribute a vaccine to protect them.
MYTH: Antibiotics are effective against the new coronavirus
FACT: Antibiotics are only used to treat bacterial infections. COVID-19 is a virus, not bacteria, so antibiotics will not be effective as a means of treatment. Note that individuals who are hospitalized for COVID-19 may receive antibiotics to treat potential bacterial co-infection.
MYTH: Vaccines against pneumonia protect you from the new coronavirus
FACT: Vaccines to prevent pneumonia do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. In fact, this virus is so different that it will require its own brand-new vaccine.
Are there effective at-home things to do to prevent or treat COVID-19?
In a nutshell, the best way to take care of yourself and loved ones is to stay home, observe social distancing, which means not spending time in the same location with anyone outside of those who live with you. If you must go out, stay 6 feet away from other people. Wash your hands regularly and do not touch your face. If there is a shelter-in-place order in your county, respect that. Stay at home with your family and follow all government recommendations.
MYTH: Taking a hot bath can prevent COVID-19
FACT: Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Even when you take a hot bath or shower, your body temperature stays between 97.7°F and 99.5°F. Exposing your body to extremely hot water can be harmful and even cause burns to your skin.
MYTH: Hand dryers are effective at killing the new coronavirus
FACT: Hand dryers are not hot enough to be effective at killing the new coronavirus. You should frequently wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. After cleaning, dry your hands thoroughly with paper towels if possible. If you use a hand dryer, make sure your hands are completely dry.
MYTH: Rinsing your nose with saline prevents infection with COVID-19
FACT: There is no evidence that rinsing your nose with saline will keep you from getting COVID-19. Saline solutions can help relieve the symptoms of the common cold, but regular rinsing has not been shown to prevent more serious respiratory infections as is seen with the new coronavirus.
MYTH: Consuming garlic can help prevent infection with COVID-19
FACT: Even though garlic has some antimicrobial properties, there is no evidence that doing so will provide protection against the new coronavirus.
MYTH: Taking extra amounts of Vitamin C can prevent or treat COVID-19
FACT: Taking extra Vitamin C will neither prevent nor treat COVID-19. Your body has a maximum amount of Vitamin C it can absorb, and any excess is removed as waste through urine.
MYTH: You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by swallowing or gargling with bleach
FACT: Bleach is poisonous and should never be consumed. There is no evidence that swallowing or gargling with bleach will provide protection from COVID-19.
MYTH: Spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body can kill the new coronavirus
FACT: Spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body will not provide protection from the new coronavirus and can be harmful to your eyes, nose and mouth. These substances may be used as surface disinfectants, but you should avoid skin exposure as best you can.
Origin and Transmission of COVID-19
It’s important to spread facts, not fear, so here are some common falsehoods that have been circulated about COVID-19.
MYTH: The novel coronavirus was created and released from a laboratory
FACT: There is no evidence that the new coronavirus is man-made. In fact, a group of experts has analyzed the DNA of this virus and concluded that its genetic makeup is like other coronaviruses in nature and is not consistent with having been manipulated in a laboratory.
MYTH: Surgical facemasks should be worn by everyone to prevent getting infected with COVID-19
FACT: The CDC now recommends the use of cloth face coverings in public settings, especially in areas experiencing high community-based transmission. Wearing cloth face coverings is especially helpful in preventing sick or asymptomatic people from spreading the disease to others. The recommendation for wearing cloth face coverings is not a recommendation to wear a surgical mask or N95 respirator, as these items are in low supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers and medical first responders who are at high risk for becoming sick with COVID-19 as they care for sick patients.
MYTH: Buying items manufactured or shipped from China is dangerous and will cause you to contract coronavirus
FACT: The virus that causes COVID-19 has been shown to live on cardboard for up to 24 hours and on plastic and metal for up to three days. It takes longer than this for you to receive your package from China, so it is highly unlikely you would contract the illness this way. However, for all mail and packages, it is wise to remove exterior packaging outside your home and then wash your hands before using the item.
MYTH: COVID-19 can be transmitted through mosquito or tick bites
FACT: COVID-19 is transmitted through droplets expelled from the body when a person coughs, sneezes or discharges fluid from their nose. This is different from how mosquitoes and ticks transmit diseases, where the virus enters the bloodstream directly via bites. The main way COVID-19 spreads is from person to person.