The COVID-19 coronavirus is one of the first major outbreaks since the invention of the internet, and the first since social media became ubiquitous, so it’s no surprise that internet platforms that often spread misinformation would become hotbeds for myths and inaccurate theories about the coronavirus.
Here are some myths you might hear about COVID-19 that are simply untrue.
Face masks protect against the virus
When news of COVID-19 began to spread, customers immediately bought up stockpiles of medical face masks to protect themselves from the virus.
But standard masks do little to protect against contracting the virus, and overbuying has led to a shortage that could harm medical professionals.
Surgeon general Jerome M. Adams even Tweeted angrily, “Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
A test costs $3,000
The rumor of high prices for testing spread on Twitter and Facebook after a few individual cases of outrageous medical bills, but health insurance companies and government agencies have been working to keep costs low.
The exact price varies based on where you live and your insurance, but multi-thousand dollar bills are rare and will become rarer as more politicians call for free testing across the U.S.
The flu vaccine protects against COVID-19
While influenza is a coronavirus just like COVID-19, the common flu vaccine won’t protect you against the new outbreak.
But the CDC still suggests everyone get the flu vaccine in order to avoid similar symptoms that may require testing for COVID-19 and take up precious medical supplies and attention.
Products from China or infected areas are dangerous
The WHO has also punctured the theory that objects coming from China or other areas with outbreaks could infect people around the world.
While it’s true the virus survives on surfaces for a few days, it can’t survive the harrowing journey from one country to another.
You can heat yourself up to kill the virus
People on social media began spreading the theory that taking hot baths or drinking hot water could kill the virus since it circulates during the colder months like the flu. An alleged post from UNICEF Cambodia (proven to be fake) even claimed eating ice cream could be dangerous.
These methods will do nothing to kill the virus if you are already infected or to prevent contracting coronavirus in the first place.
You can make DIY hand/surface sanitizers
Alcohol is one of the primary ingredients in sanitizers that kill the coronavirus on surfaces, so it’s easy to believe you could engineer your own sanitizers at home, especially as demand spikes for commercial options.
But it’s even easier to go wrong while constructing a home-made sanitizing solution and you should leave the virus-killing to the professionals. Tito’s Vodka even had to tell customers to stop using their product to try to engineer home sanitizers.
The virus will disappear by April
Coronaviruses surge during winter months, so many people hope COVID-19 will naturally disappear come spring. Unfortunately that’s not guaranteed to happen.
Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, gave a press briefing on February 12, saying she was hopeful that warm weather would help quell the outbreak but that medical experts couldn’t rely on that happening. Instead, everyone should concentrate on more immediate, tangible ways to fight the virus.