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13 Covid-19 myths debunked by Dr Julia Turner

Published May 4, 2020


CAPE TOWN - As Covid-19 infections surge throughout the world, so does common myths and misconceptions.

Other than the spread of fake Covid-19 news possibly leading to jail time, it is important to know the difference of fact and fiction during these tough times.

Dr Julia Turner, in partnership with healthcare non-profit organisation Right To Care, debunks a list of 13 myths regarding the pandemic:

Fake: People coming door-to-door to test you, might hurt you by sticking the swabs into your mouth and nose.

Fact: Trained community health workers are doing the door-to-door screening, not testing. Screening involves asking household members if they have any symptoms of coronavirus such as cough, fever, sore throat or shortness of breath. Only people with symptoms will be referred to a qualified nurse or doctor who has been trained to test for Covid-19. The swab test is not dangerous at all when performed by a trained healthcare professional.

Fake: The swabs used to take mouth and nose tests for coronavirus will give you coronavirus.

Fact: The swabs come in sealed sterile packages and are opened just before they are used to test people. They have not been tampered with and cannot give you Covid-19.

Fake: Injecting yourself with disinfectant might treat Covid-19.

Fact: Disinfectants should never be injected or drunk as they could cause significant damage or even kill you.

Fake: South Africans don’t need to worry about coronavirus because we’ve had BCG vaccines.

Fact: BCG vaccines have been given to babies in South Africa since 1973 to prevent the severest forms of TB. There is no evidence that they provide any protection against coronavirus. This rumour started when researchers looked at data from 178 countries and found that the countries which are worst affected, do not have routine BCG vaccinations. This is interesting, however, there are many other reasons that these countries may have different numbers of Covid-19 cases, including the fact that this virus is spreading in different countries at different times. We do not know if any of the differences are due to BCG vaccines or not.

Fake: Masks prevent you from getting Covid-19.

Fact: Dr Zweli Mkhize, our health minister has stated, “Wearing masks is important. We want to recommend widespread use of masks. We are recommending that people can use cloth masks, just make sure there are at least three layers of material.” If you wear a mask it will reduce the chance of your spreading coronavirus when you speak, cough or sneeze, however, there is no evidence that homemade or material masks offer any protection to you from getting coronavirus from someone else. As they say in Czechoslovakia: My mask protects you, your mask protects me! Don’t think that if you are wearing a material mask, then you are not at risk. You still need to protect yourself by avoiding people, not touching surfaces which might be contaminated and washing your hands well and regularly. If you have a material mask, it must be washed daily with detergent.

Do not wear a medical mask unless you are sick. These need for nurses and doctors in clinics and hospitals. If healthcare workers don’t have enough masks, they will get Covid-19 and there will be no one to look after the people who are sick. If you are sick and coughing, then you should also wear a clean medical mask which a healthcare worker can give you to protect the people around you.

Fake: Gloves protect you from getting Covid-19.

Fact: It is often better not to wear gloves at all and to wash your hands with soap and water after touching anything and definitely before touching your face or touching food. If you wear gloves and touch one thing and then another, you will just spread Covid-19 from one thing to another. You would need to have enough pairs of gloves to change them after each time you touch something. You cannot re-wear dirty gloves, as Covid-19 can stay on the gloves for more than 8 hours.

Fake: Only white people get Covid-19.

Fact: Everyone is susceptible to Covid-19. All ages, genders, races, and cultures living in South Africa can get it. It is similar to flu, in that all humans can get it. Unlike flu where some people may have some immunity against it, no one has immunity against Covid-19.

Fake: Chloroquine and ARVs treat or prevent Covid-19.

Fact: No treatment has yet proven to work effectively on Covid-19. In some studies, chloroquine and ARVs have shown some benefit but in other studies, they have not. More studies are needed. Trials are ongoing and have been started in South Africa as well as many other countries in the world.

Fake: Only people like that get Covid-19. It’s because of them that we are suffering.

Fact: There is nothing to be embarrassed about if you get Covid-19 and no reason to judge people who get it. Anyone can get it as it does not discriminate between race, culture, gender or nationality. You wouldn’t discriminate against someone who gets a cough or flu, why would you discriminate against someone who gets Covid-19?

Fake: There’s no treatment, so you can never get better if you get Covid-19.

Fact: There is no specific treatment currently, but around 98 percent of people will recover as their own immune systems will fight the virus. However, about 20 percent of people will need to go to hospital for extra support and oxygen, and around 2 percent will die.

Fake: People with HIV will die from Covid-19.

Fact: We do not know exactly how people with HIV will respond to Covid-19 as there have not been sufficient cases worldwide yet, but the South African medical fraternity believes that HIV infected people who are taking their ARVs and have a suppressed viral load and a good CD4 count should cope as well as people without HIV. If you want to know your HIV status, you can go to your healthcare facility to test, even during the lockdown. However, people who are not taking their ARVs, may be at higher risk of severe disease from Covid-19. Remember to take and collect your medicine. It’s very important if you are HIV positive.

Fake: Covid-19 won’t affect people living in hot climates.

Fact: This is untrue as people in South Africa have become infected with Covid-19 even when the weather has been hot. Neither hot nor cold weather can prevent you from getting Covid-19.

Fake: The world is over-reacting to Covid-19 and it is just like the flu

Fact: Covid-19 has a higher death rate and spreads much more quickly and easily than normal flu and therefore can lead to high numbers of deaths in a short space of time.

Right to Care is supporting the Department of Health regarding the Covid-19 pandemic in many ways ranging from training and technical assistance to disaster management and contact tracing.

For LIVE updates on the Coronavirus pandemic, follow us on Twitter : @sacoronamonitor


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