It’s been just over six months since COVID-19, caused by coronavirus, cases were first reported in China’s Hubei Province. The highly contagious virus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in mid-March.
As of Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases has exceeded 9 million globally, with over 471,640 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. In Bangladesh, the health authorities have so far confirmed 108,775 cases and 1,425 deaths.
Ever since the first cases were reported, numerous rumours as well as misinformation have spread rapidly largely thanks to the internet.
Here we look back on what we’ve learned, and a lot that we’ve had to unlearn, about COVID-19, the first pandemic since the 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic, in these first 6 months.
Virus, not bacteria
Let’s get one thing straight: the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is caused by a virus, NOT by bacteria. The virus that causes COVID-19 is in a family of viruses called Coronaviridae. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.
‘Not created in lab’
Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.
Around 60 percent of all infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, in other words they come to us via animals. Zoonoses that emerged or re-emerged recently are Ebola, bird flu, MERS, Nipah virus, Rift Valley fever, SARS, West Nile virus, Zika virus disease, and, now, the coronavirus.
They are all linked to human activity.
Silent but deadly
Asymptomatic patients can still infect others. And that’s a major concern since most measures rely on symptoms showing.
Likely to last months
Coronavirus crisis, which was declared a pandemic by the WHO on March 11, will likely last for months and continue in waves of local outbreaks beyond 2022.
Drinking alcohol not the solution
Drinking alcohol does not protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous for your health.
The harmful use of alcohol increases your risk of health problems.
Don’t drink bleach, methanol, ethanol
Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are poisons. Drinking them can cause disability and death.
Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are sometimes used in cleaning products to kill the virus on surfaces and you should never drink them. Drinking them won’t kill the virus in your body and they will harm your internal organs.
To protect yourself against COVID-19, disinfect objects and surfaces, especially the ones you touch regularly. You can use diluted bleach or alcohol for that.
Make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose.
Not all disinfectants work
Health experts recommend using alcohol-based hand rubs and soap and running water for cleaning hands. The COVID-19 virus is not killed by antibacterial products since they have different chemical and biological makeup.
Masks don’t cause breathing difficulties
Any prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable but it does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency.
You should make sure that the medical mask you are wearing fits you properly and that it is tight enough to allow you to breathe normally.
You must not re-use a disposable mask and always change it as soon as it gets damp.
Shoes spread COVID-19 virus
The chances are very slim but as a precautionary measure, consider leaving shoes at the entrance particularly in homes with infants and small children.
Thermal scanners CAN’T detect COVID-19
Thermal scanners are effective in detecting people who have a fever but they cannot detect people who are infected with COVID-19.
No vaccine available, yet
Currently, there are no drugs licensed for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.
A number of drug trials are ongoing and the WHO is coordinating efforts to develop and evaluate medicines to treat COVID-19.
Virus can persist in air for hours
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in March said the virus remains able to infect people for at least three hours. But on stainless steel and plastic, the virus could be detected after three days.
NOT transmitted through houseflies
There is no evidence or information to suggest that COVID-19 virus is transmitted through houseflies. The virus that cause COVID-19 spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
One can also become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching eyes, nose or mouth before washing hands.
DON’T spray disinfectants on body
To protect yourself, maintain a distance of at least one metre from others and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces. Clean hands thoroughly and often and avoid touching eyes, mouth and nose.
Spraying and introducing bleach or other disinfectant into your body WILL NOT protect you against COVID-19 and can be dangerous, the WHO warns.
Do not, under any circumstance, spray or introduce bleach or any other disinfectant into your body. These can be poisonous if ingested and cause irritation and damage to skin and eyes.
Bleach and disinfectant should be used carefully to disinfect surfaces only. Keep bleach and other disinfectants out of reach of children.
5G networks DON’T spread COVID-19
Viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.
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People can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, mouth or nose.
Heat/cold doesn’t prevent/cure COVID-19
One can catch COVID-19 no matter how sunny or hot the weather is.
Countries with hot weather have been affected by COVID-19. To protect yourself, make sure you clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Cold weather and snow CANNOT kill the new coronavirus.
There is no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases. The normal human body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the external temperature or weather.
Catching coronavirus DOESN’T mean having it for life
Most people who are infected, can recover and eliminate the virus from their bodies.
If you catch the disease, make sure you treat your symptoms. If you have cough, fever, and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early – but call your health facility by telephone first. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care.
Recovery isn’t immunity
Unfortunately, there is currently no evidence to suggest that people who have recovered from coronavirus and have antibodies are safe from second infection.
Survivor can continue to suffer
Small-scale studies in China show that people who have recovered from COVID-19 struggle with poorer function of lungs, heart and liver.
Breathing test doesn’t mean anything
Holding breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort DOES NOT mean you are free from COVID-19 or any other lung disease.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are dry cough, tiredness and fever. Some people may develop more severe forms of the disease, such as pneumonia.
The best way to confirm if you have the virus is with a laboratory test. You cannot confirm it with this breathing exercise, which can even be dangerous.
Hot bath doesn’t prevent coronavirus
Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching COVID-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower.
Taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.
Coronavirus CANNOT be transmitted through mosquitoes
There is no information or evidence to suggest that the novel coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes.
It is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.
To protect yourself, clean your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Also, avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing and sneezing.
Patients’ stool may have live virus
Chinese scientists found that the stool of COVID-19 patients may contain traces of the virus.
Hand dryers, UV lamps can’t kill coronavirus
Hand dryers are not effective in killing the 2019-nCoV.
On the other hand, ultra-violet (UV) lamps should not be used to disinfect hands or other areas of your skin.
UV radiation can cause skin irritation and damage your eyes.
Cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or washing your hands with soap and water are the most effective ways to remove the virus.
Rinsing nose with saline won’t help
There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline protects people from infection with the new coronavirus.
There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. But regularly rinsing nose has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.
Can eating garlic help?
There is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.
Younger people also susceptible to COVID-19
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People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus. Older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus.
Are antibiotics effective?
Nope, antibiotics don’t work against viruses, only bacteria.
The new coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment.
However, if you are hospitalised for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Protecting yourself and others
Following some simple precautions suggested by the WHO can help you reduce chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19
- Regularly and thoroughly cleaning hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintaining at least 3 feet distance between yourself and others. When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person has the disease.
- Avoiding crowded places. You are more likely to come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and it is more difficult to maintain physical distance of 3 feet.
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and infect you.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands. Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others. Avoiding contact with others will protect them from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority. National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
- Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as WHO or your local and national health authorities. Local and national authorities are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.