Fact or Fiction

COVID-19 or the Coronavirus the pandemic that is changing the world and the way that we live. It started as a virus in China that we saw on the news or read in the paper, in a magazine or online. Now it has invaded us, it is no longer just a news article but a real threat to us, our health and our way of life. Are we “overreacting”?  What is truth and what is hype? How do you know what to believe? Do you really need to stock up on essentials?

The small town that I live in hosted a Special Olympics Basketball Tournament on February 29th at the local YMCA. One of the players tested positive for the virus, and the first case of COVID-19 in Nebraska. The YMCA closed while they cleaned and sanitized it, the schools (Public, Private, and University) were all closed for a week and then Spring Break – so two weeks of no school, the library and Community Center closed – all to keep us safe. My grandson, who works at the YMCA, texted me on March 7th, the day that the positive test came back. Fortunately he was not working that day. That was a short 10 days ago.

The Governor of my state announced today that all Public Schools need to have a plan for remote or at-home learning by Friday and that all schools would be closed to students by Friday, unemployment checks would be made available without the one week waiting period, no weddings or funerals because gatherings of over 50 people are not allowed. In Omaha, where the outbreak is the largest, people gathering in crowds of more than 10 are not allowed. This is an ever-changing and evolving situation that is scary!

It’s scary how much has changed in just over a week from one case to crowds limited to 10 or 50 or less to prevent the spread of the virus. Omaha has a state of the art biocontainment center (built for the Ebola virus a few years ago) and, fortunately, there are only a few cases from Nebraska where the beds have been used. We are lucky!

As the novel coronavirus continues to infect people around the world, news articles and social media posts about the outbreak continue to spread online. Unfortunately, this relentless flood of information can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction — and during a viral outbreak, rumors and misinformation can be dangerous and cause undue stress and anxiety.

Common Misconceptions:

  • Face masks can protect you from the virus.

    • Standard surgical masks cannot protect you from COVID-19, as they are not designed to block out viral particles and do not lay flush to the face.
  • You’re way less likely to get this than the flu.

    • Not necessarily. To estimate how easily a virus spreads, scientists calculate its “basic reproduction number”.  This predicts the number of people who can catch a given bug from a single infected person. Currently, COVID-19, is estimated at about 2.2, meaning a single infected person will infect about 2.2 others, on average. By comparison, the flu is 1.3.
  • The virus is just a mutated form of the common cold.

    • No, it’s not. Coronavirus is a large family of viruses that includes many different diseases. Although COVID-19 shares some similarities with other coronaviruses which can cause the common cold, the four cold coronaviruses all utilize humans as their primary hosts. According to livescience.com, COVID-19 shares about 90% of its genetic material with coronaviruses that infect bats, which suggests that the virus originated in bats and later hopped to humans.
  • The virus was probably made in a lab.

    • No evidence suggests that the virus is man-made. This virus closely resembles SARS and MERS which have  triggered outbreaks in recent decades. All three viruses seem to have originated in bats. In short, the characteristics of COVID-19 fall in line with what we know about other naturally occurring coronaviruses that made the jump from animals to people.
  • Getting COVID-19 is a death sentence.

    • That’s not true. About 81% of people who are infected with the coronavirus have mild cases of COVID-19,  according to a study published Feb. 18 by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Only around 2.3% of people infected with COVID-19 die from the virus. People who are older or have underlying health conditions seem to be most at risk of having severe disease or complications. While there’s no need to panic, people should take steps to prepare and protect themselves and others.
  • Kids can’t catch the coronavirus.
    • Children can definitely catch COVID-19, however initial reports indicate that there are fewer cases in children than adults.
    • Children appear to not show the severity as seen in adults. This is possibly due to their immune systems being less compromised than older adults.
  • If you have coronavirus, “you’ll know”.

    • No you won’t know. COVID-19 causes a wide range of symptoms, many of which appear in other respiratory illnesses such as the flu and the common cold.
    • Specifically, common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, unproductive or dry cough and difficulty breathing
    • Rarer symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting and a runny nose. In severe cases, the disease can progress into a serious pneumonia-like illness — but early on, infected people may show no symptoms at all.
    • If you live in an affected region and begin experiencing high fever, weakness, lethargy or shortness of breath, or or have underlying conditions and milder symptoms of the disease, you should seek medical attention from your doctor.
  • The coronavirus is less deadly than the flu.

    • So far, it appears the coronavirus is more deadly than the flu. However, there’s still a lot of uncertainty around the mortality rate of the virus. The annual flu typically has a mortality rate of around 0.1% in the U.S. So far, there’s a 0.05% mortality rate among those who caught the flu virus in the U.S. this year, according to the CDC.
    • In comparison, recent data suggests that COVID-19 has a mortality rate more than 20 times higher, of around 2.3%, according to data from China CDC Weekly.There could be many mild or asymptomatic cases that weren’t counted in the total sample size, they wrote. 
  • Vitamin C supplements will stop you from catching COVID-19 .

    • Researchers indicate that there is no evidence that taking Vitamin C Supplements will immunize you from the virus. In fact, Vitamin C Supplements will not even ward off the common cold but may make the duration and severity less.
    • Be wary of products being advertised as treatments or cures for the new coronavirus. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have already issued warning letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent products that promise to cure, treat or prevent the viral infection.

Please keep in mind that the best way to protect yourself is to follow the guidelines that the CDC has set in place and WASH YOUR HANDS for at least 20 seconds several times a day. Soap and water is better than hand sanitizer, although hand sanitizer should be used if a sink and soap are not available.

Additional Factual Information Sources

 

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