Thursday, May 21, 2020

Dr. Faheem Yunus Breaks Down 38 Myths Surrounding COVID-19 And The Ongoing Global Pandemic

There's a ton of misinformation out there about COVID-19 and the ongoing global pandemic. In these serious times, people should be listening to the experts, to the scientists, and to those working at the front lines. It's great to know that a lot of these professionals are active in social media addressing the spread of misinformation. Among them is Dr. Faheem Yunus, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health.

Those looking for updated information about COVID-19 should follow him on Twitter. His account is popular for his breakdowns of myths and misinformation regarding the virus and the pandemic. We've collected his myth-busting tweets below.

1. Avoid shipped packages, gas pumps, shopping carts, and ATMs, or you’ll die. Wrong. Coronavirus surface survival is one thing; that surface causing an infection is another. Wash your hands, live your life.

2. You can catch COVID-19 from ordering takeout food/Chinese food (or the packaging of food). Wrong. COVID-19 is a droplet related infection (like flu) not a food-borne infection (like salmonella etc.). There is no documented COVID risk with take-out food.

3. Going into a sauna for 20 minutes can kill more than 90% of viruses, including coronavirus. Wrong. There are no scientific trials to suggest the validity of this claim. On the contrary, saunas can cause pneumonias, folliculitis, etc.

4. If you lose your sense of smell, you have COVID. False. It’s common to temporarily lose one’s sense of smell with many viral infections and allergies. It’s a non-specific symptom that may or may not happen with COVID.

5. Taking hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin preemptively is a good idea to prevent COVID. Wrong. These (experimental) drugs for coronavirus should only be used in selected COVID patients. They can sometimes cause fatal heart rhythm problems plus other side effects.

6. I receive messages that using garlic/lemon with hot water/onion in the room will prevent or cure COVID-19. Is it true? No, it’s just made up stuff. None of these substances have been scientifically tested against COVID. Don’t share such posts; they create confusion.

7. Our governor has declared a state of emergency. It must mean that we are all dying. Wrong. The state of emergency is more of a legal than a medical standard. It allows governments to access more resources (like federal funds) and personnel (like the national guards).

8. Always change your clothes/shower after coming home. Or you will bring coronavirus to your family. Wrong. Cleanliness is a virtue; paranoia isn't. Let’s not scare people. Our biggest return on investment is in handwashing, staying 6 feet away, avoiding large crowds, etc.

9. But the messages I receive are from doctors in China/Italy. Why shouldn’t I believe them? False. Real doctors publish their research in scientific journals, not on social media. Lots of good research is already published. Let’s not fuel misinformation.

10. Myth: Since there was no global travel 100 years ago, COVID will be worse than Spanish Flu. Fact: Partly true. But we also didn’t have so much info, antibiotics, antivirals, vaccines and ventilators 100 years ago. Chances of winning are much better this time.

11. Myth: Hydroxychloroquine HQ can prevent COVID and there is no down side. Fact: There is NO scientific evidence that HQ prevents COVID. It can cause serious side effects. Use may deplete HQs supply for millions who use it for approved indications.

12. Myth: You MUST shave facial hair or a mask won’t work. Fact: Shave if you’re using an N95 mask (pictured) as it seals around the facial skin and blocks 95% of airborne particles under 0.5 microns. No need to shave if you’re using cloth mask or regular surgical masks.

13. Claim: Air conditioners are a source of COVID. Truth: The strong air current from an AC/fan can propel COVID droplets farther than they’d normally travel. Risk is higher in tight spaces. ACs, therefore are not the source.

14. Debate: Coronavirus is airborne. My take: CoV is a droplet infection, NOT airborne. (Yes, I’ve read the studies showing CoV remains suspended in air). They’re inconclusive. If airborne infections (TB/measles) fly like an eagle, CoV flies like a chicken. There’s no comparison.

15. Myth: Take vitamin C/ D and/or Zinc tablets will boost my immunity. Truth: Sleep, exercise and intermittent fasting may boost immunity. Vitamins and Zinc are ONLY beneficial if you’re deficient in them. Taking extra has NO proven benefit.

16. Myth: Sun exposure prevents COVID. Sun: “I never claimed that my rays will prevent COVID. Don’t blame me for another man made hokus pokus myth. BTW, I reserve my right to cause more skin cancers if ya’ll don’t stop.”

17. Myth: Must wipe groceries/produce with bleach or you’ll get COVID. Fact: Such bleach/chemical use does more harm than good. No COVID cases have been linked to contaminated packetsDown pointing backhand index. COVID generates enough real problems; let’s not create more for ourselves.

18. Myth: Change your clothes, wash your shoes, take a bath when you come home. Or you’ll give your family COVID. Fact: Just wash your hands and hug your kids. (Yes, I’ve read the studies about virus surviving on surfaces.)

19. Myth: We will never find a vaccine for COVID just like we never found one for HIV. Truth: HIV mutations are very different/severe compared to coronavirus mutations. Plus HIV kills CD4s, the very cells required to build immunity. COVID vaccine will be developed by 2021.

20. Myth: Disinfectants have no down side; use them liberally. Truth: Disinfectants may promote bacterial resistance by a factor of 12. Prefer soap and water for hand washing. Use disinfectants: in moderation, switch brands often, and leave them on surface longer.

21. Myth: Due to outbreaks in meat processing plants, stop eating meat. We can get COVID from it. Fact: No we can’t. Because COVID is not a food borne disease. To get sick, we inhale - not ingest - the virus. And cooking the meat kills viruses anyways.

22. Myth: Cancel your newspaper home delivery. You can catch COVID from contaminated paper. Truth: Just wash your hands and make sure the paper is giving you accurate balanced news. Cancel it if it’s sensationalizing the facts; not because of a perceived COVID risk.

23. Myth: Stressing over COVID will likely help me plan better and improve my prognosis. Truth: A meta-analysis (which analyzes 300 studies) showed that stress weakens the immune system which in turn worsens your chances of cure. Eat well.Get good sleep.

24. Myth: You must disinfect vegetables before cooking them. Truth: COOK them. Cooking is the best disinfectant:). If not cooking, just wash them before eating. Please don’t make your life unnecessarily difficult. It’s your choice in the end.

25. Myth: Ginger in tea, olive oil in nose, nasal irrigation with hypertonic saline... prevents COVID. Truth: None of these interventions have been tested against this virus. We can do what we like. But the virus is likely going to respond to proven facts, not personal feelings.

26. China (or the US) were behind this virus which was created in a bio-weapon lab. Truth: An article in Nature strongly suggested that the virus emerged as natural selection and is NOT a man/lab made virus.

27. Myth: Street washing with foaming detergents is integral to COVID prevention. Truth: Don’t think it’s integral. At the end of an outbreak sometimes cities do such massive cleaning to reduce chances of a second wave and improve public trust. I couldn’t find convincing data.

28. Myth: To protect the family members, it’s better to cremate (instead of burying) the body. Truth: The biggest safety for family members lies in avoiding large funeral services/gatherings. Cremation vs. burial is not a big factor.

29. Myth: Street washing with foaming detergents is integral to COVID prevention. Truth: Don’t think it’s integral. At the end of an outbreak sometimes cities do such massive cleaning to reduce chances of a second wave and improve public trust. I couldn’t find convincing data.

30. Myth: COVID can penetrate through skin. Wear gloves. Wrong: The virus does not get transmitted through skin. Wearing gloves is a bad idea because virus may accumulate on the glove and if you touch your face it’s easily transmitted. Plus gloves can rip. Handwashing is best!

31. Myth: We won’t get COVID because we are (insert your religion here). Wrong: Coronavirus does not ask whether you are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or Hindu or Sikh or (many more) or Atheist. The virus only asks: Are you human? Previous outbreaks didn’t spare any faith.

32. Myth: You can bring Coronavirus into your home via shoes. Panic alert!!! From that logic, lightening can also strike you twice in a day. Don’t get panicked by such hypotheticals. I’ve diagnosed/treated viruses for 20 years. Droplet infections don’t spread that way.

33. Myth: No one has died of COVID in Israel as they drink lemon/baking soda. Wrong: This is made up stuff. Israel has nearly 4000 COVID cases and 12 deaths due to it.

34. I’m tired of staying home. Is it risky to go out for a run? Go. Run. Jog. Laugh. Just don’t do it with loads of people. Our air isn’t contaminated with coronavirus.

35. One of the best strategies to prevent COVID-19 is to clean every door knob in your home with disinfectants. Wrong. Hand washing/maintaining 6ft distance is best practice. Unless you’re caring for a COVID patient at home, your home surfaces should not be a big risk.

36. Hand sanitizers are better than soap and water. Wrong. Soap and water actually kills and washes away the virus from skin (it can not penetrate our skin cells) plus it also cleans visible soiling if hands. Don’t worry if Purrell was sold out at your supermarket.

37. Car accidents kill 30,000 people annually. What’s the big deal with COVID-19? Car accident are not contagious, their fatalities don’t double every three days, they don’t cause mass panic or a market crash.

38. Coronavirus will go away in summer months. Wrong. Previous pandemics didn’t follow weather patterns plus as we enter summer, there will be winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Virus is global.