Coronavirus disease: Facts vs. myths

Advice from the World Health Organization, CDC

The best way to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus is washing your hands -- thoroughly -- with soap and water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The World Health Organization wants you to know that COVID-19 is still mostly affecting people in China with some outbreaks in other countries.

Also, know that most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover. While the disease spreads and has symptoms like the seasonal flu and has a much higher mortality rate, that rate is currently estimated to be between 1% and 3% -- far lower than the 10% from SARS and 35% from MERS, two previous coronavirus pandemics.

What health professionals all agree on: Protect yourself and others

Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water. If you use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, you should make sure that it contains at least 60% alcohol.

Maintain social distancing: Stay at least 3 feet from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth, enter your body and can make you sick.

Practice respiratory hygiene: This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze, then dispose of the used tissue immediately. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early

Stay home if you feel unwell: If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider: National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.

Don’t believe everything you hear/read

The World Health Organization provided these myth busters:

Can wearing a facemask keep me from getting the virus?

Probably not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend that people who are not sick wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Experts caution that putting on a facemask without proper fitting and training could actually increase your risk because you will likely be touching your face more frequently to put on an adjust the mask.

Wearing a mask is more for people already showing symptoms of coronavirus and their caregivers than for people trying to prevent it. And the common cloth surgical mask you commonly see will not help you at all, according to Dr. Andrew Stanley Pekosz of Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How effective are thermal scanners in detecting people infected with the new coronavirus?

Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever because of infection with the new coronavirus. However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever. It takes between two and 10 days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever.

Do vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus?

No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Work to develop a vaccine is underway, but will likely take a year or more.

Does the new coronavirus affect older people, or are younger people also susceptible?

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus. WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

No. There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus. There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold but it has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.

Can spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body kill the new coronavirus?

No. Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over 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 according to directions.

Are hand dryers effective in killing the new coronavirus?

No. Hand dryers are not effective in killing COVID-19.

Can an ultraviolet disinfection lamp kill the new coronavirus?

No. UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of skin as UV radiation can cause skin irritation.

Is it safe to receive a letter or a package from China?

Yes, it is safe. People receiving packages from China are not at risk of contracting the new coronavirus. From previous analysis, we know coronaviruses do not survive long on objects, such as letters or packages.

Can eating garlic help prevent infection with the new coronavirus?

No. Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.

Does putting on sesame oil block the new coronavirus from entering the body?

No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill COVID-19 on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform. However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.

Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus?

No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The new coronavirus is a virus and antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.

Are there any specific medicines to prevent or treat the new coronavirus?

To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new COVID-19. However, those infected with the virus should receive appropriate care to relieve and treat symptoms and those with severe illness should receive optimized supportive care. Some specific treatments are under investigation and will be tested through clinical trials.