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10 Unbelievable myths about the COVID-19 virus you should know about

10 Unbelievable myths about the COVID-19 virus you should know about

Who you gonna call? The World Health Organisation!

Text: Redzhanna Jazmin


Image: Getty Images
Image: Illustration by Lau Ka-kuen

The latest case of the COVID-19 virus in Malaysia is a 53-year-old woman who recently travelled to Japan. With the infected toll on the rise, panic has surely followed; and in its wake, some truly questionable rumours about the virus have surfaced. Lucky for you, we're here to debunk those myths

Psst... Malaysia just reported its 24th and 25th COVID-19 case in the country

1) Catching the coronavirus is a death sentence

The people who should be concerned about contracting the COVID-19 virus are those with health vulnerabilities; this includes the elderly, and people with existing immunodeficiencies (compromised or dysfunctional immune system) or respiratory issues. However, if you are healthy, it is likely that you will make a full recovery as your immune system kicks into gear and fights off the coronavirus as it would any other infection.

This is by far the most dangerous myth to believe as the fear-mongering and paranoia resulting from this belief have sparked rampant xenophobic and racist acts against Asian communities all over the world. Asian communities worldwide have reported everything from a drop in business for Asian-owned restaurants, verbal abuse from strangers and plain horrific acts of violence and abuse. If you really want to protect yourself against the COVID-19 virus, implement regular hand washing with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

2) Wearing a mask will prevent me from getting sick

No, but it will harm people who actually need them. If you (a healthy person) are buying surgical masks in bulk and causing them to sell out, you are directly putting those who actually need them in harm's way. Besides, the mask is very unlikely to do anything to help you against the coronavirus; the virus can infect you through your ears, mouth and eyes, so really the only way to truly protect yourself is to wash your hands before touching these areas. 

The only instances you should be using a surgical mask as a healthy individual is if you are taking care of a person suspected to be infected with COVID-19. However, according to the World Health Organisation, masks are only effective if they are used in combination with frequent hand-washing. In addition to that, there is a clear set of rules you need to follow when wearing a mask:

  • When using the mask, make sure there is no gap between the mask and your face to prevent the exposure of your nose and mouth to droplets
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it as this will spread bacteria and other nasties
  • Replace the mask as soon as it is damp and do not reuse it
  • Dispose of it properly, by placing it immediately in a closed bin and immediately cleaning your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizers

3) Ordering packages from China will give me the coronavirus

The COVID-19 virus is known to spread through respiratory droplets expelled from the coughs of an infected person, but did you know that it also apparently spreads through Air Mail? That said, if you've ordered a package from China—or you're looking to—rest assured that although the virus can on plastic and paper, in this economy your packages are going nowhere anyway. Just kidding – if you really want to avoid catching the virus, you should simply wash your hands after touching the package and potentially disinfect the packaging and whatever it was that you ordered inside.

4) Antibiotics can treat the COVID-19 virus

No, it cannot. Viruses and bacteria are two completely separate things; a virus is an infectious agent that can only replicate inside other living cells, whereas a bacteria is a simple living organism that can replicate virtually anywhere. Antibiotics work by attacking the bacterial wall or coating, killing the bacteria–the reason this doesn't work on viruses is because they have different mechanisms and machinery that antibiotics are unable to target. That said, if you happen to contract the coronavirus and are admitted to hospital, you may be treated with antibiotics as a co-infection by the virus and other bacteria is possible.

5) Hand dryers can kill COVID-19

Absolutely not. In fact, hand dryers may just make matters worse. Countless studies have emerged over the years to show just how unhygienic hand dryers really are; a study published in the American Society for Microbiology showed that hand dryers suck up fecal matter from the bathroom air and spray it onto the users unsuspecting hands. So... maybe just stick to washing your hands and drying with a paper towel, eh?

6) You can't get COVID-19 twice

As this strain of the coronavirus is a novel strain (we have not encountered it before), we are not sure how long the viral antibody (our immunity against the virus) lasts after the initial infection. In short–it's possible. Li QinGyuan, the director of pneumonia prevention and treatment at China Japan Friendship Hospital, stated that: "For many patients who have been cured, there is a likelihood of relapse." However, no definitive conclusion can be made as there is not enough data to support it just yet.

7) Drinking alcohol will kill the virus

10 Unbelievable myths about the COVID-19 virus you should know about (фото 1)

It should have been so clear that this was a meme, but here we are in 2020 with too many people genuinely thinking that getting drunk would stop COVID-19. Specifically, whoever posted this article in the Hindi Saamana Epaper claiming that "people who consume alcohol will not be affected by the coronavirus." 

No, lads–cracking open a cold one with the boys will not stop you from catching the coronavirus. When they said alcohol, they meant the alcohol in hand sanitizers. Numpties.

8) Touching doorknobs/breathing in air is going to give me COVID-19

If droplets from an infected person happens to be present on the surfaces you come into contact with, such as doorknobs and coins, you could become infected if you touch your eyes, nose and mouth without washing your hands.

Likewise, there is a risk you could contract the COVID-19 virus from droplets in the air, but you would have to be extremely unlucky to do so by just walking around. The places that you should either steer clear of or be wary at are public bathrooms and elevators. At the end of the day, it only highlights the importance of hand washing over surgical masks, so keep your mitts squeaky clean and you should be fine.

9) There's a vaccine for the virus but the scientists are keeping it from us in a conspiracy

A vaccine is in the works, but making sure that it is safe and effective in humans takes time and money. There's no conspiracy and the government isn't trying to kill you–the vaccine is in development and is due to become available in around a year's time.

10) Garlic will help prevent me from catching COVID-19

Garlic is many things: delicious, rich in antioxidants, nutritious. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that suggests that it can prevent the transmission of the virus in anyway. If there's one word to describe what the coronavirus is, vampiric is not it. Just wash your hands, guys.

For updated news on the COVID-19 virus in Malaysia, head over to our coverage here.

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