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April 2020

Coronavirus myths you need to ignore

Written by Lemay Rogers
Hygiene and COVID-19, Hygiene Specialists

Guest writer:  Daryl Wing, Rentokil Initial

With Coronavirus spreading rapidly across the world – affecting at least 184 countries and claiming more than 80,000 lives to date – nearly a third of the world's population are living under movement restrictions. That means we’re spending a lot of time indoors. And a lot of time spent indoors means a lot of time on our phones – and especially on social media.

But social media has been battling its own virus for years: the spread of inaccurate information. While a social medium has many advantages, such as the ability to deliver news instantly, reaching different audiences faster, it also creates enormous problems, such as fake news. 

Believe it or not, but not everything on social media is rooted in fact. From holding your breath to drinking cow urine, here are the biggest coronavirus myths the world needs to ignore.

False: gargling or swallowing certain substances protects you from coronavirus

Gargling vinegar, essential oils, ethanol, salt water, steroids or bleach will not protect you from coronavirus. The latter, bleach, is dangerous and will not benefit your health. Instead, the best protection is to wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose where possible, and avoid close contact with people.

Another swallowing-related myth revolves around eating garlic to prevent infection. While garlic might kill or slow the spread of some microorganisms, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that it has protected people from the new coronavirus.

False: products shipped from countries with high levels of infection will cause coronavirus infection

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that coronaviruses do not survive for long on objects such as letters or packages. Due to humidity and temperature changes, shipping conditions make it difficult for viruses to survive, so there is very low risk of them spreading from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks.

False: a face mask will protect you from coronavirus

We’ve all seen photographs and video footage showing people wearing disposable masks, which are often recommended as a preventative measure against coronavirus. However, the majority of face masks simply aren't tight enough, allowing the virus to get into the nose, mouth and eyes, and they actually prompt people to touch their faces more as they  readjust their masks to fit.

Some models of professional, tight-fitting respirators (N95) can help protect healthcare workers who are caring for patients, but there simply aren’t enough of those to go around at the moment.

False: wearing rubber gloves will prevent the spread of germs on your hands

Rubber gloves can still become contaminated, so, if you touch your face when wearing them, you risk infection.  Washing your hands properly offers more protection than gloves. Read more about the gloves on / gloves off debate.

False: keeping your mouth moist and drinking lots of water will prevent infection

There is no current scientific evidence behind this claim. However, staying hydrated can help keep your immune system strong.  

False: drinking alcohol can kill the coronavirus

Very high levels of alcohol are needed to kill a virus, but the concentration in alcoholic drinks isn’t high enough and the level needed would actually kill a person before killing the virus. 

While alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, they can be harmful if they come into contact with clothes, eyes and mouths. People should always follow instructions carefully and only use as directed. The WHO recommends alcohol hand sanitiser as part of your hand-hygiene routine. 

False: saline rinses and mouthwash can help prevent infection

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that regularly rinsing the nose with saline or gargling mouthwash will ward off COVID-19. 

False: flu is far more deadly and easier to catch

Recent data (China CDC Weekly) suggests that COVID-19 has a mortality rate more than twenty times higher than the flu virus. With no vaccine to protect us yet, we all need to take preventative measures to stay safe.

False: pets can spread the new coronavirus

There is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. As always, it’s recommended that you wash your hands after petting an animal.

False: children can't catch the coronavirus

Older people and anyone with underlying health issues (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable, but children aren’t being kept away from school just to protect the vulnerable. They’re as likely as adults to become infected. Regardless of age, everyone needs to protect themselves against COVID-19 and follow the guidance set out by public health authorities.  

False: If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you don't have coronavirus

Despite seemingly credible sources, this myth is false. A medical test is required to get a real diagnosis, so people shouldn’t rely on this method.

False: warm weather will get rid of the coronavirus

In the UK, the typically British weather of rain has been replaced by sunshine during its lockdown, which has seen many British people sharing the irony via social media in the form of humorous GIFs and memes.

Sadly, the jokes end there. The coronavirus can be transmitted in all areas of the globe, including hot climates. The normal human body temperature is 36.5°C to 37.5°C. If the virus can survive in that, it can probably also survive while we're wearing shorts and t-shirts.

False: antibiotics kill coronavirus

Antibiotics kill bacteria, but they don’t kill viruses. SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, will not be treated by antibiotics, so it’s best to leave them for the people that need them most.

False: flies carry COVID-19

There is no indication that house flies or even mosquitoes can transmit the virus either through a bite or by landing on an infected surface.  However, we should all be cleaning and disinfecting contact surfaces to keep us protected regardless.

False: taking a hot bath prevents the new coronavirus

Your body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37.5°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. The only likely outcome for taking a bath with extremely hot water is that it will burn you. 

False: an ultraviolet disinfection lamp will kill the new coronavirus

UV radiation can cause skin irritation, so UV lamps should not be used to sterilise hands or other areas of skin.

False: drinking cow urine will protect you from coronavirus

Cow urine has long been promoted as a traditional remedy for various diseases in India, but there is no medical evidence to show that cow urine has anti-viral characteristics.

Fact: accurate information about coronavirus can help keep you safe

Our mission at Rentokil Initial is to Protect People and Enhance Lives. We have pest control operations in over 80 countries and hygiene services in 46.

If you would like to speak with us regarding best hygiene practices for your environment, contact us and we will be happy to guide you. Subscribe to our blog for regular insights, or take a look at our COVID-19 website page.

Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial's Sub-Saharan Africa region. When not contributing to the Rentokil Initial blogs, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial Sub-Saharan Africa. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a pre-schooler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on LinkedIn for practical pest control advice and good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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