As many Americans try to grasp the magnitude of COVID-19, recognizing misinformation can be difficult. Here’s the truth from experts about 4 of the most common myths about the pandemic.
Myth 1: COVID-19 Is Just Another Flu
The flu takes lives each year, but the fact that we have a vaccine and more awareness about the virus makes it a more understandable illness. However, while the flu and COVID-19 both cause respiratory illness, they are different.
“Differences between coronavirus and influenza and more common viruses still in circulation are that we know that the coronavirus binds to receptors in the lower part of the airways, and that accounts for the fact that so frequently, but not always, dry cough along with fever and fatigue are three of the symptoms that are most commonly associated with COVID-19,” Hirsch told Healthline.
“Having a runny nose is not expected with COVID-19 infection. Having muscle aches and pains is much more common with influenza. Having a productive cough, coughing up phlegm, can occur with COVID-19 infections, particularly late on, but it’s not typical with what the early course is,” said Hirsch.
Myth 2: COVID-19 Only Affects The Old
Although older people and those who are immunosuppressed are at greatest risk for complications, younger Americans aren’t entirely safe.
“One of the reasons why our population is vulnerable is not only our tendency to crowd with other people, but that many of us are under stress, we don’t sleep well, and our chronic health conditions may not be well controlled,” he said.
Myth 3: There’s Nothing We Can Do Until A Vaccine Is Invented
Hirsch said an effective vaccine is realistically about 12 to 18 months away. Once one becomes available, it will take time to understand how effective it is.
“It’s something to strive for, but I don’t think there is a certainty that will end the epidemic,” he said.
He added that focusing on other medications to potentially treat symptoms of COVID-19 are also important, as well as medications that can soothe the body’s inflammatory response to the infection.
Myth 4: The Virus Was Created By People
While the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is new, other coronaviruses have caused health problems in humans in recent years, including those responsible for SARS and MERS.
“To think of this as a biological weapon that escaped control or as something that is manmade… I understand that as a psychological defense mechanism to be able to understand, contain, and ‘otherize’ this phenomenon. It makes the world easier to understand and gives false comfort and gives a worldview of us versus them,” Hirsch said.
He explained the truth of the situation is that we are biological beings living in a world with other biological beings we can’t always control.
Believing in a conspiracy theory about COVID-19 may not be all that uncommon though. Pierre said about 50 percent of Americans believe in a conspiracy theory of some sort.
With the availability of abundant misinformation alongside reliable information online, he explained searching for answers online becomes a matter of “confirmation bias on steroids.”