Doctor discusses COVID-19 myths, misconceptions

4/2/2020, midnight
According to Dr. Luiza Petre, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist and nutrition expert, there are many misconceptions about the transmission and ...
Medicine CDC/ Debora Cartagena acquired from Public Health Image Library

According to Dr. Luiza Petre, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist and nutrition expert, there are many misconceptions about the transmission and spread of the coronavirus, and also many myths circulating about how to protect yourself. She addresses some of those here:

Will a face mask protect you from COVID-19?

NO, a regular over-the-counter or surgical mask will not protect you against the coronavirus, because they do not seal around your nose and face and you still breathe air around it. Viral-loaded droplets can be very small and float freely in the air. Keep in mind, those particles are generated only when someone coughs or sneezes in your proximity, and in laboratory settings, they were found to stay viable up to three hours. N95 masks are only for health care providers and they need to be fitted.

Can you protect yourself from COVID-19 with home-remedies?

NO, nothing can prevent you from catching the virus except for good hand washing and social isolation practices. However, a lot of homemade remedies can help you boost your immune system, such as spices like turmeric, garlic, onion or foods rich in zinc.

Drinking more water will flush the coronavirus from your system.

MYTH. Though hydration is important to our health and body, it has nothing to do with virus clearance. Plus, all viruses replicate inside the cells and attach to DNA, therefore fluids have nothing to do with curbing down infections.

Holding your breath for 10 seconds, without coughing means no infection.

MYTH. Holding your breath for 10 seconds is used as a screening tool for people to determine if they are short of breath. It is not a marker of infection. Many people still can have the coronavirus without symptoms or significant shortness of breath. However, this test is a clinical tool to determine if someone needs to seek more medical attention.

Young people/children can’t get coronavirus.

MYTH. Young children and young people do get infected, but for unknown reasons, they have mostly had a very mild form of the disease. However, there have been cases reported of a few children dying in China and another teenager in ICU in Atlanta. Also, in the U.S., 40% of hospital beds are taken by people under the age of 54.

Will the coronavirus go away or recede in warmer weather?

We don’t know for sure. Extrapolating from other viruses’ behaviors, they tend to thrive in colder and dryer temperatures. Viruses become unstable at higher temps and humidity.

Pros: Behaviors are different in warmer months with people spending more time outside with more personal space and better ventilated areas. Longer days mean more UV light. In winter months, people tend to have lower immunity due to less vitamin D. Cold, dry air also makes the nose dryer and impacts the mucus defense.

Cons: MERS started in Saudi Arabia in September when it was hot outside. Summer in one hemisphere means winter in the other hemisphere, and the outbreak can go in cycles.

Can you get the coronavirus from the mail?

NO. Cases by mail transmission have not yet been reported. Research shows the viral particles can be viable on paper or cardboard up to 24 hours, so likely by the time the mail gets to you, it is cleared. However, if you want to be extra prudent you can always keep mail and packages for another extra 24 hours after delivery.

You’re more likely to get the flu than the coronavirus.

YES. Currently this season there were already 30 million cases in the U.S. alone.

Should you be worried if your dog/pet gets the coronavirus? Can they contract it?

NO, so far there is no evidence that pets can get infected. There was one case reported where the test from a dog was positive, but it was believed to be cross contamination from the sick owner.

Can the coronavirus can be transmitted via mosquitos?

At this time, we have no evidence to believe that mosquitos can spread the virus. So far, it is only transmitted person-to-person and not via vectors like mosquito bites.

Can garlic help prevent infection?

Garlic is known as an elixir of health, a natural immune booster and is famous for its natural anti-inflammatory properties. While it can’t prevent one from catching an infection, it can definitely help fight it. As the saying goes, one garlic a day keeps vampires away.

Drinkable silver can kill infection in 12 hours.

Silver has known antibacterial properties mostly when used topically, like in creams. Silver particles attach to bacterial membranes, thereby destroying them. Viruses are different as they live inside the cells. Colloidal silver is water mixed with a suspension of silver particles. Although available as a dietary supplement, there is no solid research to back up the claims that drinking it can protect against viruses, maybe because viruses live inside the cells tied to a cell’s DNA. So far, drinking colloidal silver has not been proven yet to work against viruses.

Saltwater can flush out the virus.

NO, this is a social media misinformation. Unfortunately, it is not true. First, the coronavirus is not stuck in the throat and then travelling to lungs. Also, viruses are intracellular pathogens, meaning they live inside cells. While gargling salt water can alleviate sore throat symptoms, they do not affect the virus.

If you contract the virus once, you can’t get it again.

NO: the body builds a memory immune response; how long that lasts, we do not yet know. Some immune memories can be lifelong, like after a polio vaccine, or short-lasting like a flu vaccine. Some people in China tested positive way after they recovered from a first episode, but that was thought to be due to virus antigens still being detected in the cells, and not related to viable viral particles.