Myths vs. Facts About COVID-19

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April 17, 2020


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As dangerous as the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is, equally dangerous is the amount of misinformation that seems to spread just as rapidly, well-intentioned as it may be. Relying on hearsay or questionable sources can put you at increased risk for contracting the virus and spreading it to your family, friends or colleagues. Healthcare experts address some common myths – and facts – about COVID-19.

MYTH OR FACT? COVID-19 is no worse than the seasonal flu.

MYTH: According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, COVID-19 transmits much more rapidly than the seasonal flu we experience every winter. It also has one characteristic that dramatically distinguishes it from the seasonal flu, he says: “The mortality for the seasonal flu is 0.1%. Mortality for COVID-19 is about 1.0%, which means it’s ten times more lethal.” The first study of fatality rates among U.S. coronavirus patients by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that “case-fatality percentages increased with increasing age, from no deaths reported among persons aged 19 years or younger, to highest percentages (10 percent to 27 percent) among adults aged 85 years and older.”

MYTH OR FACT? Only people with visible symptoms of COVID-19 are capable of spreading the virus.

MYTH: One of the reasons why COVID-19 has spread around the globe so easily is that a person can be exposed to the virus but not show any symptoms for up to 14 days. A new study calculates that the median incubation period for COVID-19 is just over five days and that 97.5% of people who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days of infection. This week, CDC director, Robert Redfield, M.D., told NPR that “one of the [pieces of] information that we have pretty much confirmed now is that a significant number of individuals that are infected actually remain asymptomatic. That may be as many as 25 percent.”

MYTH OR FACT? Pregnant women need to take extra precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19.

FACT: Pregnancy diminishes a woman’s immune system, which may put them at a higher risk level for contracting COVID-19. Ellen Schwartzbard, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Baptist Health Medical Group, is telling her pregnant patients that they don’t need to be overly stressed about the coronavirus. But they do need to take the normal precautions against infection “up a notch” because of their compromised immune systems. “We are not seeing pregnant women get sick from coronavirus at a more severe rate,” says Dr. Schwartzbard, “but I am recommending to my patients to take those CDC precautionary measures to an additional degree.”

MYTH OR FACT? The virus can only be spread through the air, when people cough or sneeze.

MYTH: Some scientific experts believe that COVID-19 can be spread not just from an infected person coughing or sneezing but also from merely talking or breathing. In an April 1 letter to the White House, Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of the Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Health Threats for the National Academy of Sciences, stated, “Currently available research supports the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus) could be spread via bioaerosols generated directly by patients’ exhalations.” Social distancing of at least six feet from other people should be sufficient to protect you, Dr. Fauci says.

Additionally, and even more concerning, the virus can remain viable on surfaces for variable periods of time, according to Dr. Fauci – from a few hours for cloth to up to two or three days for hard surfaces like stainless steel and certain types of plastic. “People also continually touch their nose or mouth,” Dr. Fauci says. “They shake hands with people, they grab a doorknob – that’s also the way it’s transmitted.”

MYTH OR FACT? COVID-19 can be spread through food.

MYTH: Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Before preparing or eating food, however, the CDC advises that you always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. You should also wash your hands throughout the day, especially after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.

MYTH OR FACT? COVID-19 cannot be spread through swimming pools and hot tubs.

FACT: There is no evidence that the Coronavirus Disease 2019, COVID-19, can be spread to humans through the use of pools and hot tubs, states the CDC. But there is a caveat: “Proper operation, maintenance, and disinfection (e.g., with chlorine and bromine) of pools and hot tubs should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

MYTH OR FACT? The return of hot, humid weather will end the spread of the virus.

MYTH: Several new studies provide some hope that the heat might slow the spread of the virus. However, infectious disease experts say while the factors that cause other viruses to retreat during the summer months could affect this coronavirus in a similar way, there’s no way to be sure, as pandemics don’t always behave in the same way as seasonal outbreaks. And, even if the virus’ spread does slow as temperatures rise, that doesn’t mean it will be gone for good. Dr. Fauci believes COVID-19 may return in the autumn and winter, and become a seasonal virus like influenza.

MYTH OR FACT? You can be screened for COVID-19 via telehealth services like Baptist Health Care On Demand.

FACT: If you think you’re experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19, a physician can screen you via Baptist Health Care On Demand (the service is FREE for a limited time with code CARE19). You’ll be asked a few questions and observed for symptoms to determine if you should then be referred for testing. PLEASE NOTE: if you are having difficulty breathing or experiencing any other life-threatening emergency, visit the nearest emergency department immediately.

MYTH OR FACT? Baptist Health Care On Demand, Baptist Health’s virtual telehealth service, is only for coronavirus patients.

MYTH: Baptist Health Care On Demand has seen a sharp increase in the number of visits from people concerned they may have COVID-19. Yet the service is always available – 24/7, 365 days a year –  for a variety of health and wellness needs, including urgent care, mental health counseling, psychiatry, breastfeeding support and diet & nutrition, and more.

Concerned you may have coronavirus?
Use our online Coronavirus Assessment tool or call our COVID-19 hotline, 1-833-MYBAPTIST (833-692-2784). To see a doctor on your phone from the comfort and safety of your home, download Baptist Health Care On Demand. Use code CARE19 for a free visit (Valid through May 31st.)

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