Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, we are battling another disease. People using social media platforms and the Internet are bearing the brunt of this disease. Yes, we are talking about the disease that is misinformation. Many experts have termed this spread of misinformation as an infodemic.
Covid-19 pandemic has already filled us with fear, worry, and anxiety. The infodemic adds to these emotions and is causing mass hysteria in the general public.
People are now unsure of what information to believe and what to discard. Misinformation fueled by politics is perhaps one of the major contributors to the infodemic.
Here are some common myths about Covid-19 and the facts behind them.
Myth: It is safer to not sanitize than touch a communal bottle of Sanitizer.
This comes from the thought that communal bottles of hand sanitizers such as ones at a supermarket or a mall, may be used by multiple people and the virus may be present on the surface.
However, when you use that sanitizer any virus present will automatically die. Similarly, if everyone uses the bottle the chances of getting infected from the bottle will be lower.
Myth: Covid-19 is just thrombosis caused by bacteria.
“Russia is the first country in the world to dissect Covid-19 corpses (going against WHO’s criminal orders of no autopsy’s (sic) allowed for covid deaths), and after a thorough investigation, it was determined that Covid-does NOT exist AS A VIRUS”
This was a fairly famous claim going around the internet but was later debunked. The WHO never prohibited the autopsy of Covid victims, rather they had issued a set of norms to be followed in September 2020.
While Covid-19 may cause blood clots in some cases, that is not the end of its capabilities. Autopsies in Russia had found that Covid-19 was the cause of death in at least a thousand instances.
Coronavirus is a virus belonging to the family of Coronaviridae and antibiotics do not work against viruses.
Myth: Wearing masks can cause oxygen deficiency.
Wearing masks for long periods at a stretch may be uncomfortable. However, it will not cause CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency.
Wear masks properly, covering your nose, mouth, and chin. Ensure it fits properly but isn’t too tight to make breathing difficult. Never reuse surgical masks.
Myth: You should wear masks even while exercising.
The WHO recommends people not to wear masks while exercising. Masks may make breathing difficult especially when you exert yourself.
The sweat from exercising might also break down simple surgical masks or make the mask wet. This promotes the growth of microbes on the mask.
While exercising the important measure to take is maintaining a distance of at least 1 meter from others.
Some studies however suggest that wearing masks while exercising is safe and does not affect your performance. Adults who are otherwise healthy and capable of self-monitoring can wear masks even while working out.
However, stop if you experience discomfort, fatigue, dizziness, headache, shortness of breath, muscular weakness, or drowsiness. Wait for these to subside before continuing, if they worsen stop the activity. Get medical attention if required.
Myth: Covid can spread through the water while swimming
Covid-19 cannot spread through the water you are swimming in. However, if you are in close contact with an infected person you may get infected as well. Swimming in a well chlorinated and well-maintained pool is considered safe.
While swimming or otherwise maintain a distance of at least 1 meter from others and avoid crowded areas. Wear a mask when you’re not in the water.
Myth: Covid does not spread in hot and humid climates
Studies have not yet linked temperature to the spread of Covid-19. Even in hot humid countries like India, Covid has been wreaking havoc.
Covid can be transmitted in any type of climate. Maintain safety measures and practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of the virus.
Myth: Extreme cold kills the Coronavirus.
No matter the temperature outside, the human body temperature stays around 36.5°C to 37°C. Viruses can still spread from one person to another even in extremely cold conditions.
Laying in snow or staying in extremely cold temperatures do not protect you from Covid-19, but masks and other safety measures will.
Myth: Frequent hot water baths will prevent Covid-19
Taking hot baths does not prevent Covid-19. The temperature inside your body stays the same regardless of the outside temperature.
Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently with soap will keep you safe from Covid-19. This prevents viruses on your hands from entering your body when you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
Myth: Covid-19 is caused by 5G rays.
Viruses cannot travel via radio waves or mobile networks. Besides, Covid-19 is present in several countries without 5G networks.
Other related claims include that bacteria that mutated due to 5-G rays are responsible for Covid-19. Again these claims are baseless. It is well established that the SARS-CoV-2 virus belonging to the Coronavirus family causes Covid-19.
Myth: Drinking alcohol makes you immune to Covid.
No, drinking alcohol does not kill the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers with 60% or above alcohol content eliminates any virus that may be present on your hand.
Drinking alcohol can be counterproductive and increase the risks of other health problems.
Myth: Mosquitoes can spread Covid-19.
As of now, no reliable information suggests that mosquitoes can carry and spread the Coronavirus. Coronavirus spreads mainly through person-to-person contact, primarily through droplets of saliva or nasal discharge.
Cover your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing. Use a napkin, handkerchief, or your elbow to cover. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer or soap to clean your hands thoroughly.
Myth: Injecting, Drinking, or otherwise taking Methanol, Ethanol or Bleach prevents Covid-19.
BIG NO! Methanol, Ethanol, and Bleach are poisonous and can kill you. These should not be consumed under any conditions. These agents can indeed be used to disinfect surfaces.
If you use these to disinfect surfaces or objects, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth if you have used any of these agents.
Myth: Rinsing your nose with saline keeps Covid-19 at bay.
There is no evidence to substantiate the claim that rinsing the nose regularly with saline protects one from Covid-19. Regular rinsing of the nose has not proven to be effective in preventing respiratory illnesses.
Myth: Antibiotics can be used to treat Covid-19.
Antibiotics are a class of drugs used to treat bacterial infections. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Antibiotics cannot be used to treat viral infections. However, Covid treatment may sometimes include antibiotics to combat any bacterial infections.
The epic battle against the Infodemic
Apart from the myths mentioned above, we can find several conspiracy theories all over the Internet. From Social Media to Websites, misinformation sneaks into all corners of the "World Wide Web".
Some claim that the vaccines contain microchips that can control the host or leak your information to an IT cell in China.
Others say that the pandemic is a lucrative hoax created by billionaires such as Bill Gates and multinational pharma companies.
Rumors and propaganda are so intricately intertwined with news and media that trying to tell facts from fiction will leave you at your wit's end.
Covid-19 is the perfect climate for these infodemics to spread and create an uproar. People are stuck at home, surfing the web to deal with a new uncertain, and ever-changing challenge.
According to the WHO, an infodemic is a flurry of information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.
Infodemic management refers to a set of practices to battle the infodemic and reduce its impact during health emergencies. Evidence and risk-based analysis are at the core of these practices.
Here are some tips that will enable us to reduce misinformation and curb the infodemic.
Before sharing or sending out any piece of information, ensure that it is true and accurate. Do your research before believing what a random stranger on Facebook says.
Use credible sources
Get your news and information from credible sources like the WHO or your local health department. Do not rely on a simple WhatsApp forward or a biased Facebook post to get your facts.
Never too late to make amends
If you figured that a piece of information you shared is incorrect, make the necessary changes as soon as possible. Delete your post or message and pass on the correct one.
We all make mistakes, embrace them. Learn from them and never repeat the same mistake twice.
The internet is flooded with a ton of information, some relevant and factually correct, while others are false or irrelevant pieces of information.
The infodemic is a vital factor in causing mass hysteria and worsening the mental health conditions of the general population. Read more about Mental health during the pandemic here.
Be responsible for yourself and others; share only relevant, credible, and factually correct information. Let us work together to flatten the curve of both the pandemic and the Infodemic.