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Let's Talk COVID-19 By Sophie Kriz

Because many people are left worried and desperate after increasingly dire news about COVID-19, a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 is quickly spread. Whether intentional or not, all myths about COVID-19 are harmful and many of them are potentially dangerous. Here are some of the most common misconceptions dispelled:

  • It is possible to recover after contracting COVID-19. While COVID-19 is serious and can be life-threatening, it is also true that most people who catch COVID-19 are able to completely recover and eliminate the virus from their bodies.
  • COVID-19 can infect anybody, regardless of age. While older people or those with pre-existing medical conditions seem to be more susceptible to catching the virus, COVID-19 can infect anybody, even the young and healthy. It is recommended that everyone takes steps to protect themselves, for the sake of their own health and the safety of others.
  • Taking a hot bath, drinking alcohol, receiving a pneumonia vaccine, and spraying alcohol or chlorine over your body have all been shown to be ineffective at preventing one from getting COVID-19. In fact, some of these actions are potentially dangerous and could cause serious bodily harm. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
  • Antibiotics are not effective at protecting you from/treating COVID-19. Antibiotics are engineered to protect one from bacteria and are thus ineffective to viruses, including COVID-19. However, antibiotics are administered to some serious cases of COVID-19 to prevent co-infection from bacteria.
  • According to the World Health Organization, there is currently no specific treatment recommended to treat or prevent COVID-19. However, this does not mean that those who contract COVID-19 will not receive care. According to the severity of the case, those who are infected with the virus will receive appropriate care to treat symptoms. In addition, certain possible treatments are under investigation by researchers in hopes of finding a treatment as you read this, and some patients might receive experimental medication.

How To Protect Yourself from COVID-19

  • Regularly and frequently wash your hands: When we go about our daily lives, there is always the possibility that we are entering into an infected environment. In such a case, the virus could likely transfer onto our hands after we touch an infected surface or object. Because of this, washing one’s hands with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizers, which are able to kill viruses, is a significant step towards decreasing your chances of contracting COVID-19.
  • Maintain social distancing: This can be a hard one. Humans are, by nature, social and it can be difficult to stay physically away from others. However, recent studies have shown that currently, an infected person spreads COVID-19 to on average 2.2 other people. Because of this, the World Health Organization recommends that one maintains a distance of at least three feet, if not more, from others at all times. In fact, the law in Michigan currently requires that one stays at least six feet away from others.
  • Avoid touching your face: Again, our hands come into contact with many surfaces that could be contaminated. You will not necessarily get sick simply because the virus touches your hands, but if it comes into contact with your nose, mouth, or eyes, the chances of entering your body and infecting you drastically increase.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze: When one sneezes, one sprays droplets that could possibly be contaminated with the virus into the air. While the likelihood of you having the virus is very small, there is a possibility that you could be infected and not be showing symptoms. Because of this, it goes a long way to protect your own health and safety and that of those around you to cough and sneeze into your bent elbow or a tissue, which should be disposed of immediately.
  • If you show symptoms (fever, cough, tiredness, or difficulty breathing), seek medical help early: Healthcare providers and national and local authorities will have the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. Because of this, they are the most likely to be able to help you if you show symptoms or feel unwell.
  • Stay informed: Finally, it is important to stay informed. The COVID-19 epidemic is a fast-changing and fluid situation. So, it is best for you to try to keep up with information on how to best protect yourself and those around you from credible sources.

Should We Use Face Masks?

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the use of protective face masks has become prevalent in China and other Asian countries such as South Korea. However, the WHO has not issued a recommendation that the general public use face masks. What should we make of it? In a letter to the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, five researchers including S. Feng of the University of Oxford and C. Shen of Imperial College, London explain the situation. According to these experts, one important reason to discourage widespread use of face masks is to preserve limited supplies for professional use in healthcare settings. However, they also say that evidence suggests COVID-19 could be transmitted before symptom onset, and therefore community transmission might be reduced if everyone, including people who have been infected but are asymptomatic and contagious, wear face masks. According to the researchers, health authorities should optimize face mask distribution to prioritize the needs of frontline healthcare workers and the most vulnerable populations in communities who are more susceptible to infection and mortality if infected, including older adults (particularly those older than 65 years) and people with underlying health conditions.

Long story short, face masks might help, but we should not all go buying them if there is a shortage for healthcare providers, first responders and other persons who really need them. As a possible alternative, the CDC recommends the use of home-made cloth face coverings, especially in situations where social distancing is hard to maintain. According to the CDC, cloth face coverings should

  1. fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  2. be secured with ties or ear loops
  3. include multiple layers of fabric
  4. allow for breathing without restriction
  5. be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.