Myth Vs. Fact: COVID-19
Understand the true dangers of COVID-19 with insight from a certified professional.
April 7, 2020
MYTH: COVID-19 isn’t a big deal.
FACT: “COVID-19 should be taken seriously. It is a very real pandemic. One thing I would like to make clear is that not all people diagnosed with COVID-19 are going to be very sick or are going to be on breathing machines. A lot of people, especially people who do not have underlying health conditions (such as cancer, diabetes, or immunity disorders) will not be on breathing machines. People who are not in the extremes of age tend to do very well. People who are older and/or have underlying health conditions seem to do the worst with COVID-19. COVID-19’s attack rate is 30%, so that means its a very easily transmitted disease from one person to another, either by aerosols (droplets from people breathing, sneezing or coughing) or if someone is sick and someone touches them and has the virus sitting on their skin, that virus can be very easily transmitted from one person to another. It is more infectious because it is able to live on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days. So, if it’s sitting on a door knob, and you come back one week later, it (the virus) may still be there when you come back. If anyone comes and touches that door knob and then touches their eyes, face, nose, or mouth, they can be easily infected.”
MYTH: COVID-19 is just the flu.
FACT: “A big difference between the flu and COVID-19 is that the incubation period for the flu is much shorter. So, it is much less likely that someone with the flu will be shedding that virus while not showing symptoms. The incubation period is up to five days for the flu, but is up to twenty-eight days for COVID-19. Therefore, COVID-19 is very different from the flu and should be taken very, very seriously.”
MYTH: We don’t need to worry because our health system is prepared for this pandemic.
FACT: “Our health system was not prepared for this virus. Getting the testing for COVID-19 in place was initially a very slow process and initially it was only controlled by the CDC. Only certain labs were allowed to run these tests, so testing had to go through a lot of steps. In the early stages of testing, if a patient came into a hospital who needed to be tested, the staff at that hospital would have to talk to different authorities. That patient had to be from the same municipality or county as the hospital they get tested in. Furthermore, the turnaround time to get these tests back is longer than is effective or helpful for patients. There also no proven treatment for COVID-19, and all treatments being used now are on an experimental basis with little to no data to back them. There is not a lot of supply of these treatments, so they’re only used on truly critical patients who are confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19. It’s crucial that results are received within twenty-four hours of the COVID-19 test, but this has not been the case as the turnaround time has been up to five days to get results back. Now, testing is becoming more available as hospitals can order testing easily through computers. We are working on procuring testing kits so that testing can be done “in house” and we can receive those results within twenty-four hours. If we do that, we can start patients on medication more quickly, and this is of course going to show more benefit for this small segment of people who are very critically ill with COVID-19.”
MYTH: This virus only affect elderly people.
FACT: “COVID-19 will affect anyone, it can’t pick and choose between young and old people. But, the way that our bodies react to the virus is different. This is all going off of limited data that is all observational data. It’s not randomized controlled trials, but observational trials have shown that people who are younger will get the infection, but their manifestation of the infection is going to be a lot more mild. They won’t have what we call Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as often. People with ARDS need to be supported by breathing machines as their lungs suffer a big hit from the infection.”
MYTH: Being in contact with small groups of people/friends isn’t a big deal.
FACT: “The simple answer to this is just to simply stay home. Even if a gathering is just between two people, there’s no way to know if this person who appears to be healthy was exposed to someone when they went to the grocery store yesterday and is now shedding the virus. You can infect possible hundreds of people before realizing that you are sick, so self isolation is the best option. People should avoid travel, and even avoid work unless they are essential personnel. People can work from home, or fill their time by doing things like spring cleaning, staying in touch with their families, or exercising at home. You can still go outside, but make sure to maintain at least a six foot distance from other people at all times, and of course stay away from people who are coughing or showing any symptoms that could indicate that they are sick. Unless people are tested for COVID-19 and have tested negative, there is no way to know that they don’t have the coronavirus, even if they only appear to have a cough or a fever. Additionally, some cases have shown patients that test negative for COVID-19 the first time, but test positive the second or third time.”
MYTH: If you can hold your breath with ease for ten seconds, you don’t have COVID-19.
FACT: “This is completely not true. It goes back to the long incubation period for COVID-19. If you are in a state where you can’t hold your breath for ten seconds, that means there is a pretty advanced issue where you’re breathing really fast. If you’re holding your breath for ten seconds, you’re taking six breaths per minute. If you can’t hold your breath for ten seconds, you’re having an increase in your respiratory rate because you’re not having adequate gas exchange. However, this myth is not in any way true, it just means that you need immediate attention for respiratory issues.”
MYTH: Taking ibuprofen increases your chances of getting COVID-19.
FACT: “I could not find any scientific evidence pertaining to COVID-19 that says this. There have been situations in the past where people have taken anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen that exacerbated their initial symptoms, but did not really have any effect on the overall outcome. More evidence is needed, but I don’t see any objective scientific evidence against using non-steroid drugs such as ibuprofen.”
MYTH: Hand sanitizer isn’t effective in preventing COVID-19 because it’s anti-bacterial, not antiviral.
FACT: “Hand sanitizer can definitely help prevent COVID-19. The alcohol in sanitizer will inactivate the virus. When cleaning inanimate surfaces, using substances such as lysol or isopropyl alcohol for one minute can kill the majority of the active viruses on any inanimate surfaces.”
MYTH: If I don’t show symptoms, I probably don’t have COVID-19.
FACT: “That is a very big misunderstanding and that I think this is part of why people have not been able to take the correct measures to fight this disease, because people can be shedding the virus (which means their respiratory droplets contain the virus) during the incubation period, which for COVID-19, has been from five days up to four weeks. So, people could be shedding the virus before they have symptoms. And even when they do h show symptoms, people may just have mild respiratory symptoms, a little bit of achiness or some fever or a cough. 60-70% of infected people have fevers, 60-80% have a cough, so these are the most common symptoms. The flu often will have very clear gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, which are shown less with COVID-19. Back to the question, this big misconception is very wrong, and this is where this whole concept of “social distancing” comes in. This is why it’s encouraged that people stay far away from each other even if they are not exhibiting symptoms. You may look like you’re healthy, but you may be harboring the virus or shedding it, and if you’re in contact with other people you can infect them and exacerbate the problem.”
Overall, Dr. Elrufay would like people to know, “COVID-19 is scary, it is real, it can kill people, but the number of people who are really affected badly by COVID-19 is about 2-4%. We never know where it’s going to hit or when it’s going to hit. We have to isolate ourselves as much as we can, take it seriously, wash our hands anytime we go out and only go out if we have to. Exercise common sense, if you see someone who’s sick, stay away from them. Try to not touch your face, eyes, nose, and mouth. Stay clean, stay home, and stay safe.“