By Megan Tseng
Coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus. #COVID-19, Coronavirus Disease 2019, has been the butt of many juvenile jokes and humorous conversations here in the United States. However, in some areas, it is becoming anything but.
The steady increase of worldwide COVID-19 cases has brought widespread panic. Millions rush to stores to stock up on hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, gloves, and of course, the ever-present face masks. Schools send students home for online learning, and businesses urge employees to work from home.
At the same time, there are some people who choose to ignore the dangers of COVID-19, insisting that it is equivalent to the #influenza virus and not dangerous enough to threaten those of us living on the other side of the globe.
Although certain levels of caution and relaxation are important when dealing with COVID-19, some things that people believe are really just myths.
1. COVID-19 and Influenza are not the same
Granted, characteristics of influenza and COVID-19 do share some resemblances. Both are respiratory diseases, can cause fever and coughing, and may lead to pneumonia. They are also spread through virus-containing droplets from an infected person. However, influenza and COVID-19 are not the same.
Season flu versus COVID-19.
The two diseases arise from different viruses. Influenza is caused by strains of the influenza, while COVID-19 is caused solely by the novel 2019 coronavirus. Because of its relatively new discovery, scientists’ knowledge of COVID-19 is much more limited than theirs of the influenza.
One of the main reasons why COVID-19 can be considered much more dangerous is its high transmissibility between humans. Like influenza, it can be spread through coughing, sneezing, talking, and talking. However, COVID-19 can remain airborne and functional in dispersed droplets. This means that even after the sick person has left, others passing by can possibly breathe in infected air and contract the disease.
As you may have heard from teachers or other adults, the number of influenza cases has reached 1 billion, while COVID-19 cases have just surpassed 230,000. However, the novelty and transmissibility of COVID-19 may allow it to quickly catch up with influenza. Furthermore, unlike the annual flu vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines are still under development, and no antiviral medications are currently available to the public.
2. Face masks do not protect against COVID-19
Simply put, standard face masks do not work against COVID-19. Though keeping a layer of fabric between your mouth and the air in front of you seems like an ingenious idea, it unfortunately isn’t virus-proof. Viruses, like COVID-19, are about one-millionth of an inch long. These tiny particles can undoubtedly pass through a face mask and into someone’s nose or mouth. In addition, the large gaps on the sides of the face mask would allow countless COVID-19 particles to enter and be inhaled.
Many people who have been putting on face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19 are not used to wearing them. Because of this, they often touch their face in efforts to fix and adjust the mask. This constant hands-to-face contact can actually be much more dangerous than simply forgoing the face mask in the first place; COVID-19 particles on your hands can be carried into the eyes, nose, or mouth. Ironic as it sounds, you can accidentally contaminate yourself by putting on a face mask.
Health care professionals recommend that these masks be worn by people who are already sick. Although they can’t keep COVID-19 out, they do a great job of keeping it in. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, the mask traps the virus particles and prevents them from dispersing through their immediate vicinity. Because of their usefulness in stopping the virus’s spread, these face masks are needed by health care professionals in treating and caring for sick patients. Therefore, it is strongly recommended that people stop buying all the face masks off the market.
3. Shipments from China cannot spread COVID-19
Many people are worried that mail and packages shipped from China can contain the COVID-19 virus and spread it in the United States. It is a legitimate concern; as we all know, many products we use here in the U.S. are labeled with the iconic “Made in China” sticker.
Regarding products like electronics purchased online from China, shoppers are in the clear. Research has shown that COVID-19 cannot survive on surfaces for much time without a host. In other words, even if an infected person coughs on the laptop you ordered from China, the COVID-19 particles would be rendered ineffective long before the three-day or more delivery process reaches your house. This pattern has been seen in other coronaviruses, members of the virus family COVID-19 belongs to. Coronaviruses like SARS and MERS are only able to live a few short hours on an object’s surface. So your COVID-19-exposed laptop is still safe to use.
Regarding animal products shipped from China, scientists still do not have a definitive answer. However, no research shows that COVID-19 has spread from China’s livestock to people in the U.S., and the import of these products is tightly regulated to minimize risk.
COVID-19 is undoubtedly a dangerous disease. Although stocking up in preparation for an apocalypse is not necessary, it is good to take preparatory measures in order to protect yourself from spreading both the disease and false information.
Maragakis, Lisa Lockerd. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 vs. the Flu.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2020, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu.
Cramer, Maria, and Knvul Sheikh. “Surgeon General Urges the Public to Stop Buying Face Masks.” New York Times, 5 Mar. 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/29/health/coronavirus-n95-face-masks.html.
Krieger, Lisa M. “Can I get coronavirus from a package delivered from China?” Los Angeles Daily News, 27 Feb. 2020, https://www.dailynews.com/2020/02/26/can-i-get-coronavirus-from-a-package-being-delivered-from-china/.