Learn How to Discern Fact from Fiction and Beware of Spreading Misinformation About COVID-19
COVID-19 is short for Coronavirus 2019 and, as of a month ago, this pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down, including mine. I am currently working from home right now to reduce the spread.
Suddenly, everything we knew as “normal” has changed. For example, if you’ve gone into any stores lately, you’ll have noticed PA announcements telling customers and employees to practice “social distancing” (staying at least six feet or 2 meters apart), large signs that give you an idea just what they mean by six feet, and even stickers on the floor, directing customers where to go as well as stickers in line at the cash register to keep people six feet from each other and the cashier. Busier times might require customers to wait in line to come into the store until someone leaves.
However, even as I write this, things are changing so drastically, I can’t keep up. Just three weeks ago I was at a scheduled dentist appointment for a mouthguard and sitting in the uncomfortable wooden chair staring at a COVID-19 poster on the wall with details that have since changed. Then, just last week, I received a notification from my dentist that they will only be open for emergencies.
With tons of information coming at us from every angle, by our premier, our Prime Minister, our friends, social media, and the news, it can be an overwhelming feat to juggle it all. What do you believe? What do you regard as just talk? Is there a way to filter the facts from the fiction?
Unfortunately, not all information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic is based in fact. I have heard myths from the truly ridiculous – drinking bleach to kill the virus – to the easily believed to be true – drinking hot water can kill the virus. And unless you’re an expert, you’re not going to know for sure, which is why some misinformation can be easily disguised as fact.
If you want to make sure you’re spreading only the facts to your family, friends, and patients, it is best to know how to discern between what’s fact and what’s fiction. So, before I move on, I am going to present you with a few FACTS about COVID-19 (that you may or may not know).
COVID-19 is not the flu
Contrary to popular belief, COVID-19 is not the flu nor is it like the flu. It is an upper respiratory infection that has flu-like symptoms but can progress quickly and has sent people to the hospital and the ICU. It is much more contagious and a lot more dangerous. COVID-19 symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Pneumonia in both lungs
COVID-19 is not biased or gender-specific. No one is immune. Woman or man, young or old, anyone can contract COVID-19. As the number of cases continues to rise, that much is made clear. If you are young and healthy, you are still at risk, and worse, you put others at risk if you are not following the guidelines set out by the country’s Prime Minister to stay away from crowds, stay in as much as you can, and keep at least 2 meters apart from others.
At this current time, there is no vaccine
Again, contrary to popular belief, there is no known vaccine for this illness. That is why we are currently staying in as much as possible and isolating ourselves from others. That is not to say that researchers are not working diligently every day to produce a vaccine or possible treatment.
Those are the facts, unfortunately, there is more misinformation about the pandemic than facts, which can be difficult to sift through, especially since the details about this pandemic continue to change sometimes hourly.
A week ago, I learned that my dad’s coworker was handing out a typed page full of nothing but misinformation, including suggestions to protect yourself against COVID-19. As I read it, I noticed a huge indicator: no sources to back up the claims.
With all the offices and clinics still open all over Canada, it is imperative to beware of misinformation and spreading that misinformation during this time of crisis the way my dad’s coworker did. Misinformation is bad information and can cause significantly more suffering.
Below are just some of the myths from that handout and the sources I researched to debunk every single one.
MYTH 1: Hold your breath for more than ten seconds. If you don’t cough, you don’t have the virus
This is definitely a myth. And one that seems to be making the rounds. Just so you know, this particular piece of advice has no basis in fact.
HOT TIP: If you think you have the virus or you are experiencing symptoms, call your doctor or Health Links. You can also go here and take a self-assessment: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html
MYTH 2: Hot water or a hot bath can kill the virus
This is not a water borne virus and therefore water has no effect. The reason people drink water when they are sick is to flush out their system. Drinking hot water or taking a hot bath will not kill the virus and may even be dangerous to your health depending on how hot the water you’re drinking is.
MYTH 3: Eating garlic can prevent the virus
Please watch this regarding this obvious falsehood: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1711698499894
MYTH 4: Taking Ibuprofen or Advil can make the virus worse
Again, there is no evidence to back up this claim. And if there is no evidence, your best course of action is to regard this as misinformation.
In order to properly debunk these myths, I did my research. Check out the videos and articles below that debunk these myths and others circulating the internet:
How to Stay Aware and Stop the Spread of Misinformation
We are susceptible to not only believing misinformation but spreading it, and as a result, could cause a lot more harm than good. So how do you stay aware and stop the spread? Do what I do.
- Take everything on social media with a grain of salt. Most of what you read on social media (be it Facebook or Twitter) are opinions, and some of those opinions are just downright false. I have stayed far away from social media for this reason and plan on continuing to stay away. When it comes to news about COVID-19, I encourage everyone to practice caution as most of those opinions have no basis in fact.
- Limit your news about COVID-19 to just the facts. Even the most reputable news sources out there are expressing their opinions, and even though that’s fine and we all do it, opinions are not fact.
- If you are unsure, don’t spread it, instead, do your research. Google, Facebook and other social media platforms are the authority on all things COVID-19. So, if you want to keep yourself and those around you updated on the facts, go to where you can find them:
Government of Canada website: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/canadas-reponse.html
The official government website dedicated to your province will also provide you with up to date facts on the virus, how it’s affecting your province, and what your government is doing specifically to reduce the spread and keep you informed about business closures and economy-related updates.
Limit your News; don’t cut it out completely
I have heard many people suggest that it might be a good idea to completely eliminate the news from your stay-at-home diet. But I have to disagree (yes, I understand this is my opinion). Why? Because keeping up to date on the news provides you with the facts about not only what’s going on in the world with the virus but what’s going on in your province, right down to your city.
Also, the facts are changing constantly, and if your office is still open to patients then it is your responsibility to stay fully informed and up to date on the facts in order to keep them fully informed and up to date.
This piece, as I’m sure you’re aware, is an opinion piece with information you might disagree with. We are all entitled to our own opinions, not our own facts. That is why every piece of information in here regarding COVID-19 is backed up with a reliable source, be it a medical professional, Government of Canada website, a reliable news source (eg. Global, CTV), or official websites such as CDC and WHO.
I encourage everyone to challenge every piece of information out there that is not backed up by reliable evidence. Do your research because by reducing the spread of misinformation in your community, you help reduce the spread of the virus.
We’re all in this together, and together we will survive this pandemic as long as we pay attention to facts and ignore the myths.