As Canadians continue to navigate news from a variety of sources and learn more about the COVID-19 health threat, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction.
With this in mind, our medical experts bust six common myths surrounding COVID-19, the novel coronavirus:
1. It’s just like getting the flu.
While it is true that most people who become infected with COVID-19 will experience mild to moderate flu-like symptoms, its disease profile is more serious than that of the flu. Simply put, the novel coronavirus is more likely to lead to serious respiratory symptoms and complications than the seasonal flu.
It is too early to determine an accurate mortality rate for COVID-19, but so far the World Health Organization states that the number of reported deaths divided by the reported cases is between 3% and 4%. While this number may be skewed due to many unreported infections, we know COVID-19 is at least 10 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.
2. I have minor symptoms that feel like a typical cold, so I don’t really need to self-isolate.
COVID-19 has symptoms that can mirror a regular cold or flu, and people can transmit COVID-19 even if they have very minor symptoms. With that in mind, self-isolation is critical when you have a cold or any COVID-like symptoms, in order to protect your loved ones and your community.
Get instant medical support from the comfort and safety of your home.
3. COVID-19 is dangerous for seniors and people with underlying conditions, but not for kids or healthy adults.
This unfortunate myth is giving many adults the false impression that they will not get very sick even if they contract the virus. While most young, healthy individuals who become infected will have mild or moderate symptoms, no one is protected from the potential serious health risks.
It is true that seniors, those with underlying conditions, and those with more exposure to the virus (healthcare workers, for example) are more vulnerable — and physical distancing efforts by all of us play a vital role in protecting them. Reporting symptoms, self-isolating when necessary, being vigilant about hand hygiene, and practicing diligent physical distancing — no matter what — is crucial in influencing the trajectory of this pandemic.
4. You need to be directly exposed to an infected person in order to catch COVID-19.
The virus is spread by droplet or by contact. By droplet means close, face-to-face exposure, or being within two meters of an infected person for several minutes. Contact means touching contaminated surfaces, then touching our mucous membranes — and COVID-19 can last several days on surfaces, depending on the material. This is why it is so important to be diligent about physical distancing, hand-washing, and regularly sanitizing high-traffic surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, etc.
5. Taking a hot bath, drinking hot fluids and rinsing your nose and mouth can help prevent contracting COVID-19.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that any of these measures will prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Regularly rinsing the nose with a saline solution may speed up recovery from the common cold, but it has not been shown to prevent or treat respiratory infections like COVID-19.
The best defences against the novel coronavirus are:
- Physical distancing overall, and self-isolation when appropriate
- Hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing at least 60% alcohol)
- Avoiding touching your face
- Taking care of your health through social connection (virtually), good nutrition, exercise at home, adequate sleep, and calling your healthcare professional if you have concerns.
6. A vaccine will be ready soon and will end the pandemic.
The development of a vaccine is underway, but there are many lengthy trials and steps required before it can be commercially viable. We are likely still 12 to 18 months away from a vaccine; in the meantime, the only way to positively influence the outbreak is to slow down its spread. Each of us has the power to help accomplish this by practicing physical distancing and healthy hygiene. We are in this together, for ourselves, our loved ones, our communities, and for all Canadians.
Subscribe here to receive our COVID-19 resources in your inbox.