F.E.A.R. can be an acronym for False Evidence Appearing Real. We experience fear when our thoughts scare us, say the experts. Surely, there’s plenty to be fearful of during these unprecedented, frightening times surrounding the novel coronavirus.
But truth is often the first casualty of fear caused by misinformation and myths, says epidemiologist Dr. Mary Beth Saunders, medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology with Lee Health.
The facts of today may not be the truths of tomorrow, Dr. Saunders says. “Information surrounding this pandemic changes every day. It is important to pay attention to credible health experts like Lee Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or WHO for the most accurate information.”
MYTH: Because I'm asymptomatic, that means I don't have COVID. Therefore, I can't transmit it.
Dr. Saunders says recent studies indicate a significant number of individuals with coronavirus are asymptomatic (they lack symptoms). The danger, Dr. Saunders warns, is that even those who are pre-symptomatic (they eventually develop symptoms) can transmit the virus to others before showing any symptoms of the disease.
"This means that people who are in close proximity to each other can spread the virus by speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people don't show any symptoms," Dr. Saunders says. "This is new evidence.”
The CDC now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
MYTH: Because I’m young and am in good health, the virus won’t affect me.
How easily a virus spreads from person-to-person can vary, Dr. Saunders says. “But so far, the information from the ongoing pandemic suggests the virus spreads more efficiently than the flu, regardless of one’s age.”
Dr. Saunders adds it’s important to remember that although the disease can infect people of all ages, those who are higher risk need to take extra precautions. “Higher risk groups include older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.”
Serious underlying medical conditions can include (per the CDC):
MYTH: If I become infected with coronavirus, I could end up on a breathing machine.
Most people who catch COVID-19 recover at home and their own body takes care of the virus without medical care. “If you have cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, seek the advice of your local medical provider or care at a medical facility if your symptoms are worsening,” Dr. Saunders says.
MYTH: I can only catch coronavirus if someone coughs or sneezes near or on me.
“The truth is the virus can land on surfaces when someone coughs or sneezes,” Dr. Saunders notes. “And if you touch that surface with your hands and then touch your eyes, mouth or nose, you can still contract the virus and become sick.”
MYTH: Hand dryers are effective in killing the coronavirus disease.
One of the most effective ways to protect yourself against the virus is to frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Then, after your hands are cleaned, dry them thoroughly using paper towels.
MYTH: The sun or temperatures warmer than 77 degrees prevent the coronavirus disease.
“You can catch COVID-19 no matter how sunny or hot the weather is,” says Dr. Saunders.
Stay tuned for part 2 of COVID-19 mythbusters in a future blog piece.