Michelle Wrona, Senior Science Editor

The COVID-19 pandemic has been on the frontline of all news platforms in recent times, and with new information constantly circulating about the coronavirus, it can be difficult to tell what is fact or fiction. It is highly recommended to follow the public health guidelines of the Government of Canada and the World Health Organization, before adhering to following advice from other sources. Here is a perfunctory list of common COVID-19 myths, and the facts related to their legitimacy. 

MYTH: Living in a warm, humid climate protects you from COVID-19.

When the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to evolve at the start of 2020, much was not known about its transmission and the virus’s ability to thrive in hot climates. The initial lack of factual evidence for the transmission of the virus led to theories being made about the possibility of warmer climates leading to prevention of contracting the virus. However, countries with hot weather, such as Brazil and India, have reported high cases of COVID-19. As of September 8th, 2020, India has reported over 4.2 million cases and Brazil has reported over 4.15 million, making them the nations with the second and third highest case counts.

FACT: There are no drugs available for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19.

In May 2020, U.S. President Donald Trump claimed that he was taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that he says is a potential coronavirus cure. However, the FDA has claimed that the drug is not safe to use for prevention measures against contracting COVID-19, with patients having reported “serious heart rhythm problems and other safety issues, including blood and lymph system disorders, kidney injuries, and liver problems and failure.” With this option having been eliminated as a potential drug to fight this virus, there are no others currently available.

MYTH: Ingesting bleach or other disinfectants protects individuals against COVID-19.

As per a study conducted by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, approximately 5800 individuals were admitted to hospitals globally due to having ingested alcohol-based cleaning products, falsely believing in these products as potential virus cures. This misbelief lies amongst many common misconceptions of methods for protecting oneself against the virus, which result from the spread of false information on social media.

FACT: Contracting COVID-19 does not mean that one will have the virus for life.

According to the WHO, the majority of individuals who catch the virus “can recover and eliminate the virus from their bodies.” This opposes the common misconception stating that once one contracts the virus, it will remain in their systems indefinitely. Due to the absence of long-term research on the effects of the virus, scientists are currently unable to demonstrate lasting effects of COVID-19 on patients. This will likely take decades to demonstrate.

MYTH: A vaccine to cure COVID-19 is available. 

Although it has been reported that multiple vaccine trials have been taking place, such as the one by AstraZeneca, which has recently undergone scrutiny for causing a patient to endure serious side-effects, there currently is no available vaccine that is safe to utilize. According to the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID), the process of developing a safe and effective vaccine will likely take 12 to 18 months from March 2020. Furthermore, due to the high demand for this vaccine, this means that a commercial vaccine will not be available until after this time period. 

FACT: Animal species are vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2.

After the initial declaration of a worldwide pandemic in March 2020, many reports of animal viral transmission were made. However, it was not until a study conducted by the University of California – Davis which demonstrated, through genomic analysis, that many animal species may be vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection. In the article published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Damas et al. explain that analysis of the ACE2 receptor, which the virus binds to in order to infect host cells, highlighted that 410 vertebrate species are potentially susceptible to becoming infected by the virus. More specifically, animals with similar amino acid residues as humans are shown to be at higher risk for contracting the disease via the ACE2 receptor. This includes some endangered species, such as the Western lowland gorilla, Sumatran orangutan, and Northern white-cheeked gibbon. 

MYTH: People should wear masks while exercising. 

Although many public health units have enforced regulations for individuals to wear face masks indoors whilst maintaining social distancing of a minimum of two metres away from others, the WHO suggests not wearing masks while exercising. This is due to the possibility of masks reducing the “ability to breathe comfortably.” Furthermore, sweat promotes the growth of microorganisms due to it making a mask more wet quickly. Instead of wearing a mask during physical activity, it is suggested for one to maintain physical distance of at least one metre away from others.

While the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing and new research is regularly being conducted and released to the public, it is essential to be able to discern the validity of facts. This can prevent individuals from making poor decisions that put them at higher risk of contracting the virus or enduring other negative health consequences. By following government public health guidelines, wearing a mask when and if you can, and attempting to social distance yourselves from others at a minimum of two metres, we can all protect ourselves and others around us. Stay safe, Trinity!

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