As the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) continues to infect people around the world, news articles and social media posts about the outbreak continue to spread online. Unfortunately, this relentless flood of information can make it difficult to separate fact from fiction — and during a viral outbreak, rumors and misinformation can be dangerous.
With this in mind, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a list of myth busters regarding the new coronavirus, and I thought I would also do my part in helping spread the facts.
Myth: Face masks protect you from the virus.
I have been noticing that more people are wearing medical face masks in the last few weeks whilst out and about. Don’t worry if you haven’t bought one. The masks are fairly ineffective for the average person.
Only people caring for infected people and the infected people themselves needs to wear masks.
Some of the surgical masks, which the public are choosing to wear are actually made to protect others from the wearer, not the other way around. They likely won’t prevent droplets reaching your mouth and nose. Even the more heavy-duty respiratory masks, which tend to be used in hospitals aren’t very effective for the average person. They need to be properly fitted to create a seal and then removed and disposed off correctly.
Myth: Certain supplements will stop you from catching COVID-19
No research has yet found any evidence that supplements can render people immune to COVID-19 infection. In fact, for most people, taking supplements for instance vitamin C supplements does not even ward off the common cold, though it may shorten the duration of a cold if you catch one.
That said, vitamin C serves essential roles in the human body and supports normal immune function.
However, no evidence suggests that other so-called immune-boosting supplements such as zinc, or green tea or whatever supplement help to prevent COVID-19.
And just a reminder, please be ware of these commercially advertised ‘Herbal’, ‘all natural’ supplements. They can be hazardous to your health, and always check with a doctor or the qualified medical practitioner before you take any supplement whether it’s natural or not.
Myth: Handwashing is ineffective
Claims that washing your hands is futile against the virus are incorrect. Effective handwashing is one of the best disease prevention techniques we have. Learning the WHO recommended sixty second handwashing technique will help to protect you against coronavirus and other infections. Always make sure to use soap and warm water to wash your hands. Dry them using a clean, disposable paper towel or hand drier where possible. Despite some claims, hand driers themselves will not kill the virus - you need to wash your hands to do this.
If you don’t have access to water and soap, using hand sanitizer will work in the meantime.
Hand sanitizers containing at least 70 per cent alcohol are the most effective in killing viruses and bacteria. Carry a bottle on you at all times so you can make sure your hands are clean before touching your face or mouth.
The author is the medical doctor based in Dar es salaam.