The world wide web is full of myths regarding the Covid-19 virus. It’s challenging to understand what’s true. In this blog post, I’m going to introduce 5 common myths about Covid-19 shared online. Afterwards, check out my previous blog about self-care while isolated in a pandemic.
Disclosure: While I am a nurse, and try my best to find the most up-to-date information. I am not a doctor. I do not specialize in infectious diseases nor virology. If you have questions regarding Covid-19, ask your doctor.
Common Myth 1: A vaccine can’t work because the Covid-19 virus has never been isolated.
First, the virus that causes Covid-19 was first isolated in Canada by the Sunnybrook Research Institute and McMasters University in March 2020. The team was able to culture the virus from two clinical specimens. Obtained from two Canadians who had recently travelled from China.
Furthermore, the Center for Diseases and Prevention (CDC) isolated the virus in January 2020. After a patient had arrived from Wuhan, China. Providing them with a test sample to work on. The virus since then has been isolated thousands of times across the world.
Common Myth 2: Masks do not stop Covid-19
Evidently, masking laws were NEVER put in place to stop the virus. They were put in place to slow the rate of transmission. Ironically, the same concept was used during the Spanish Flu. The Lancet has an excellent article that I highly recommend.
A common quote around social media is “rates are higher than ever, even with masking”… My question to you is, are they really? Canada started putting in restrictions pretty quick. Our first case was on January 25th, 2020. Schools started being pulled out by mid-February. Lockdowns and business closures followed shortly after. Then by August, we had masking recommendations in place. What would our numbers be if we did none of this? We don’t know. We will never know, but they could be a lot higher than what we see today (or maybe the same). But I’m not willing to find out, are you?
For this reason, it’s also important to bring up the “Swiss Cheese” concept. Swiss cheese, is the concept of using more than one method of protection to fill the gaps. A mask slows the transmission. However, using a mask with social distancing greatly reduces the spread of transmission even more. Handwashing with masking, and social distancing, even more effective.
How does a mask slow the spread of Covid-19?
A mask works by minimizing the spread of larger droplets from your mouth or nose. It also reduces breathing in larger droplets. A mask does not trap carbon dioxide. As masks have small holes that air/carbon dioxide can bypass. Covid-19, in comparison to air, is much larger.
However, if you’re touching your mask and not washing your hands. You contaminating whatever you touch. Not with just Covid-19, but other viruses and bacteria. When you reach into a box of disposable surgical masks, you have to wash your hands beforehand. Otherwise, you may potentially contaminate that whole box. If you’re touching your reusable mask multiple times a day. Taking it off and on and not cleaning your hands? You’re contaminating everything you touch. Toss your mask on the car seat? If you touched something with Covid-19 and didn’t wash your hands, you contaminated your car seat.
Common Myth 3: Does COVID-19 only infects older adults and individuals living with chronic conditions?
I hate this question. It devalues people’s lives. It doesn’t matter if your 92 or if you have chronic heart failure. Your body may be weaker, but that doesn’t mean society shouldn’t care if you die. If anything, this should give us more reason to try our hardest to protect you.
As an example, in Saskatchewan, we’ve had (to date) 27,245 cases. Keep in mind, these are the only cases we know about. They’ve found that this number could be between 6 to 24% higher. These findings may reflect the number of people who had mild cases. They did not seek medical care or undergo testing but still may have contributed to ongoing virus transmission in the population (Read Article).
Total Cases: 27,245
Age 19 and under: 6105 (22%)
20 to 39: 9804 (36%)
40-59: 6815 (26%)
60-69: 3316 (12%)
80+: 1118 (4%)
The highest three age categories for Covid-19 are those between the ages of 0 and 59, 89% of all cases. Consequently, if you’re between 0 and 59, you are at a greater risk of getting sick in Saskatchewan.
Nonetheless, there have been 365 deaths in Saskatchewan related to Covid-19. I wish I had a chart that showed deaths per age group. Sadly there isn’t one available (to my knowledge). But I did find a news article that CTV Regina posted, Sask: A look back on the deadliest month of the pandemic. The CTV Regina article has the deaths for January listed by age groups.
Ages 0-19: 0 (0%)
20 – 29: 1 (0.6%)
30-39: 3 (2.0%)
40-49: 3 (2.0%)
50-59: 10 (6.7%)
60-69: 25 (16.7%)
70-79: 25 (16.7%)
80+: 82 (55%)
TOTAL: 149 deaths
Therefore as one increases with age, the risk of dying with Covid-19 increases. This isn’t surprising. As we age, our bodies become weaker to viruses, usually due to other conditions (cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, weakened immune system). When you add another virus to your already weakened immune system, it becomes a challenge for your body to fight both. These are the individuals that we need to protect. But people from all age groups are still being impacted. Recently in Saskatchewan, per the Saskatchewan Government Facebook updates, we have a growing increase in deaths in the 40-49 range.
Common Myth 4: Covid-19 is the “FLU.”
Unfortunately, In the United States alone, Covid-19 has killed more people than influenza has in the last five years. In Canada, influenza, typically results in 12,200 hospitalizations and approximately 3,500 deaths yearly. We’ve already lost 21,576 Canadians to Covid-19, 83% higher than our annual influenza deaths.
Susceptibility of Covid-19
Covid-19 is more susceptible since we have no preexisting immunity to the virus. Unlike influenza, many of us have had it growing up, or we’ve been vaccinated. The fact that a portion of Canadians already holds immunity to influenza makes it less dangerous (herd immunity).
Unlike Covid-19, we have known treatments that help treat the symptoms of influenza. While there are lots of trial medications out there. Some more promising than the others. It’s still too early in the pandemic to say for sure what works and what doesn’t.
Generally, people with influenza recover without lasting complications. With Covid-19, findings show 1/3rd of patients have long-term effects (weakness, shortness of breath, kidney/heart problems, neuropathy, etc.).They are known as long-haulers.
Lastly, the majority of individuals will get a “MILD” infection (no symptoms), and that’s great. The problem is that they’re transmitting the virus to others, some of which have a much more serious illness. Every person who gets infected keeps the “chains of transmission” going. Which can bring COVID-19 to those who are more vulnerable. Keeping hospital rates at an all-time high.
Common Myth 5: Most people survive Covid-19; it’s not a pandemic
If one wants to get technical, most people survive all the pandemics to date. In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed between 20 to 100 million people. The world population back then was 1.6 – 2 billion. The Spanish Flu killed 1.25% to 5% of the world’s population.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of a pandemic is a new disease that has spread worldwide. Surprisingly, this definition doesn’t involve anything to do with the population immunity, deaths, virology or disease severity (read here), more towards the degree to which it’s spreading.
Therefore, in terms of Covid-19 meeting the criteria as a “pandemic,.” It does, as it is a global virus that has impacted basically the whole globe.
Lastly, Share your comments below, what other myths have you heard? What are you interested in learning more about?
1918 Spanish flu in Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca /en/article/1918-Spanish-flu-in-Canada?gclid=Cj0KCQiA4L2BBhCvARIsAO0SBdaTzyPmW9OPoZ_FlgkSWqVkaarsUZTVPJFPZURE6PIikoHAS294jEEaAo_wEALw_wcB
Canada, P. (2020, October 23). Government of Canada. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/flu-influenza/health-professionals.html
Cases and risk of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/cases-and-risk-of-covid-19-in-saskatchewan
Fiona P. Havers, M. (2020, December 01). Seroprevalence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in 10 sites in the United States, 2020. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2768834?guestAccessKey=7a5c32e6-3c27-41b3-b46c-43c4a38bbe00&utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_content=tfl&utm_term=072120
Harcourt, J., Tamin, A., Lu, X., Kamili, S., Sakthivel, S. K., Murray, J…Thornburg, N. J. (2020). Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 from Patient with Coronavirus Disease, United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(6), 1266-1273. https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2606.200516.
McMaster researcher plays a key role in isolating the COVID-19 virus for use in urgent research. (n.d.). Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://brighterworld.mcmaster.ca/articles/mcmaster-researcher-plays-key-role-in-isolating-covid-19-virus-for-use-in-urgent-research/
Roberts, S. (2020, December 14). The Swiss cheese model of Covid-19 Defence: What it means, how it works. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/health-family/the-swiss-cheese-model-of-covid-19-defence-what-it-means-how-it-works-1.4429716
Rogers, L., & JH Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2020, October 20). No, covid-19 is not the flu. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://www.jhsph.edu/covid-19/articles/no-covid-19-is-not-the-flu.html
Smith, M. (2021, February 02). COVID-19 in SASK: A look back on the DEADLIEST month of the pandemic. Retrieved February 20, 2021, from https://regina.ctvnews.ca/covid-19-in-sask-a-look-back-on-the-deadliest-month-of-the-pandemic-1.5291687