Sunday, March 8, 2020

Dispelling Myths on Coronavirus

I've been traveling recently. And, whether I was on NJ Transit to Newark Airport or catching up with friends and colleagues on Facebook, I sadly have been confronted with a lack of understanding of science and infectious disease, in this case the coronavirus epidemic (pandemic). Here are some of the myths and facts related to the coronavirus outbreak:

Myth: If you got a flu shot and maybe the pneumonia vaccine, you're ok.

Fact: Not true. Though getting both the flu and pneumonia vaccines (if you are over 65) would reduce the likelihood of you getting either disease that would compound your problems, they do not protect you from the coronavirus.

Myth: Scientists will have a coronavirus vaccine in a couple of months.

Fact: Not true. The development of a vaccine that will be used in humans requires a number of steps that require clinical trials, first with a small number of subjects and then with a much larger sample size. That being said, it's likely we will not see a vaccine for at least a year or more.

Myth: Only old people get sick from the coronavirus.

Fact: Though we are not seeing very young children getting sick, one of the early cases of coronavirus on the west coast was a teenager. And now there are reports that large percentages (almost 40%) of hospitalized cases in the U.S. are in ages 20s to 50s. Though most of the deaths have been among older people. Anyone can get sick with the coronavirus, though most everyone will have mild symptoms. But anyone who is immunocompromised or has an underlying health condition (such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cardiac disease) -- especially if they are older -- has an increased risk of a more serious illness.

Myth: Coronavirus doesn't stay on surfaces for very long so there's no worries about touching a surface that hasn't been in use for awhile.

Fact: It's believed that the coronavirus can remain viable on surfaces for several hours up to a few days. But it depends on the surface and the amount of virus. For example, the virus may remain viable longer on metal than cloth surface. If you think a surface may be contaminated, use a disinfectant cloth (such as Lysol) to wipe it down and, of course, wash your hands with soap and water, or, if it's not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.

Myth: Taking vitamin C supplements, drinking green tea, eating garlic, or ingesting probiotics can help prevent coronavirus.

Fact: No. These natural remedies will neither protect you from this novel coronavirus nor can they treat the condition should you become sick. Neither will antibiotics work as a treatment since this is a viral infection, not a bacterial illness.