Months into the worst pandemic to hit the United States in more than 100 years, people still believe that 5G mobile networks cause COVID-19, this health catastrophe was planned, eating garlic can protect you and children are immune.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, research university Johns Hopkins, the Mayo Clinic, public health officials and scientists have debunked a slew of these myths. But they persist.
A Pew Research Center survey in June found that 71% of Americans had heard the conspiracy theory that powerful people planned the outbreak.
About a quarter of those adults thought it was definitely true or probably true. Nope.
Here are eight other myths that are somehow still making the rounds.
Myth 1. Children are immune to COVID-19
Fact: Even newborns have tested positive for COVID-19. And kids have been treated for multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a rare but serious condition linked to COVID-19.
Last week the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association — which represents more than 220 children’s hospitals nationwide — reported that the number of children across the country testing positive skyrocketed 90% between July 9 and Aug. 6.
According to their tally, more than 380,000 have been infected thus far, about 9% of all cases in the country.
The groups said their data — limited because it relies on the disparate ways states report cases — highlighted the urgency to control the virus so schools can open. The pediatric group started collecting data on children affected by COVID-19 in April.
Most reported cases of COVID-19 in children younger than 18 “appear to be asymptomatic or mild,” says the CDC. But that doesn’t mean children aren’t suffering.
One-third of 208 children sick enough to be hospitalized with COVID-19 were admitted to the intensive care unit, says the CDC’s most recent data, released this month and based on 576 children from 14 states hospitalized between March 1 and July 25.
Nearly 6% of those children ended up on a ventilator. One died in the hospital.
Among kids, the overall hospitalization rate was highest for children under 2.
Myth 2. Masks don’t work.
Fact: They do.
Face masks, “combined with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand-washing and social distancing, help slow the spread of the virus,” says the Mayo Clinic.
A study published in June in the medical journal Health Affairs examined the effect of mask mandates in 15 states, and the District of Columbia, between April 8 and May 15. It found COVID-19 cases didn’t grow as much after mandates were issued.
It estimated that 200,000 COVID-19 cases were averted by May 22, concluding that requiring face masks in public could mitigate the spread of the disease.
Myth 3. Hot peppers prevent or cure COVID-19
Fact: No, they won’t. Just don’t tell that to the 107-year-old New Jersey grandmother in the news for surviving both the Spanish flu more than a century ago and COVID-19.
Anna Del Priore, a Brooklyn native, credited some of her immunity to eating a Mediterranean diet her whole life. “I eat hot peppers,” she told one TV station.
“Hot peppers in your food, though very tasty, cannot prevent or cure COVID-19,” says the WHO, which amplifies the messaging about what does make a difference — social distancing, washing your hands and the overall health benefits of maintaining a balanced diet, staying well hydrated, exercising regularly and sleeping well.
Myth 4. It’ll go away after the election
(Translation: It’s a hoax.)
Fact: Ask the loved ones of more than 168,000 dead Americans — or any of the more than 5.3 million Americans who have been infected as of Monday according to the CDC — whether COVID-19 is a hoax.
Public health experts and drug companies developing vaccines and leading clinical trials caution that COVID-19 will be with us for years. Even with a vaccine, COVID-19 is expected to flare up from time to time, like the flu.
“We know this virus is not going away any time soon. It’s established itself and is going to keep on transmitting wherever it’s able to do so,” the WHO’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, said during a recent symposium on how COVID-19 is changing health care around the world. “We know we have to live with this.”
Myth 5. Bleach will protect you
(That includes injecting, swallowing or taking a bath in bleach, rubbing alcohol or disinfectants.)
Fact: At a White House coronavirus briefing in April, President Donald Trump talked of the possibilities of treating COVID-19 with disinfectants.
Misinformation still circulates about ways to treat COVID-19, says the Mayo Clinic, noting that saline nasal washes don’t help, nor does drinking alcohol or eating garlic.
The supplement colloidal silver, being marketed as a COVID-19 treatment, “isn’t considered safe or effective for treating any disease,” the clinic says.
And, “you can get the COVID-19 virus in sunny, hot and humid weather,” and “cold weather and snow also doesn’t kill” it, says the Mayo Clinic.
Disinfectant makers, including Lysol, were some of the first to warn people against injecting or ingesting their products after Trump’s comments at the White House.
“Never attempt to self-treat or prevent COVID-19 by rubbing or bathing with bleach, disinfectants or rubbing alcohol anywhere on your body,” Johns Hopkins warns. “Effective hand sanitizers do have alcohol, but they are formulated to be safe for use on hands.”
The same cautions go for drinking methanol and ethanol, says the WHO: “They will not kill the virus in your body and they will harm your internal organs.”
Myth 6. 5G mobile networks spread COVID-19
Fact: Universally debunked, this whopper got a lot of oxygen from a Twitter account which has since been taken down, researchers at the London School of Economics discovered. The user of the account, never identified, sent out 303 tweets in seven days, they found.
“So you’ve got somebody here who understands a way of, in effect, kind of manipulating the social media landscape,” researcher Joseph Downing told NPR.
Viruses cannot travel on radio waves and mobile networks, says the WHO, which notes that COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G networks.
One more time: COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets in the air that an infected person sprays by sneezing, coughing or speaking. You can also get it by touching a contaminated surface, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Myth 7. Houseflies and mosquitoes transmit COVID-19
Fact: To date, there is no evidence or information showing that COVID-19 is transmitted through mosquito bites or houseflies, says the WHO.
Myth 8. Pets can spread COVID-19
Fact: Right now, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low, says the CDC, but the so-far limited information is changing often. And it appears that infected people can spread it to animals “in some situations,” federal health officials say.
In April, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in pets — two cats living in different parts of New York state.
No one in the household of one of the cats had tested positive for COVID-19 and was suspected of getting it from an asymptomatic family member, or an infected person outside the home.
The owner of the other cat had tested positive for coronavirus before the pet showed signs.
Since then, the USDA reports that 11 other cats, 14 dogs and two minks have tested positive, while only a small number of animals worldwide were reportedly infected.
Until health officials know more about this connection, the CDC recommends keeping pets away from people or other animals outside the household, keeping them indoors when possible, and avoiding dog parks or public places where people and dogs gather.
And people with COVID-19 are advised to restrict contact with their pets as they would with other people.
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