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Woman washing her hands in her kitchen sink

Coronavirus Disease 2019: Myth vs. Fact

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New Terms for 2019 Novel Coronavirus

On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the official name of the illness that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

  • The illness is now called COVID-19. “COVI” for coronavirus, “D” for “disease,” and “19” for the year when it was identified.
  • The virus itself is now called SARS-CoV-2.

This article has been updated to reflect the name change.

The 2019 novel coronavirus, now called SARS-CoV-2, has caused an outbreak of illness (COVID-19) that started in December 2019 in China and spread to other countries. On Jan. 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global health emergency. People who get sick from the new coronavirus may have mild symptoms, such as a cough or fever, or more serious ones, such as pneumonia.

You might be concerned about keeping yourself and your family healthy and safe. There’s a lot of information circulating, so it’s important to know what’s true and what’s not.

To help you better understand what’s happening and cut through the confusion, here are some common myths, clarified with information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WHO. Both organizations are working with experts on learning more about the virus.

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

FACT: There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus right now. Scientists have already begun working on one, but developing a vaccine that is safe and effective in human beings will take many months.

MYTH: You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by swallowing or gargling with bleach, taking acetic acid or steroids, or using essential oils, salt water, ethanol or other substances.

FACT: None of these recommendations protect you from getting COVID-19, and some of these practices may be dangerous. The best ways to protect yourself from this coronavirus (and other viruses) include:

  • Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and hot water.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick, sneezing or coughing.

In addition, avoid spreading your own germs by coughing into the crook of your elbow and staying home when you are sick.

MYTH: The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.

FACT: Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.

MYTH: People are dying from COVID-19 in many countries.

FACT: As of Feb. 24, 2020, 2,596 people in China have died from COVID-19, as well as 32 people in other countries. Medical authorities will confirm any fatalities in other areas.

MYTH: Ordering or buying products shipped from China will make a person sick.

FACT: Researchers are studying the new coronavirus to learn more about how it infects people. As of this writing, scientists note that most viruses like this one do not stay alive for very long on surfaces, so it is not likely you would get COVID-19 from a package that was in transit for days or weeks. The illness is most likely transmitted by droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough, but more information is emerging daily.

MYTH: A face mask will protect you from COVID-19.

FACT: Certain models of professional, tight-fitting respirators (such as the N95) can protect health care workers as they care for infected patients. But for the general public, the benefit of wearing lightweight disposable surgical masks is not clear. Experts say they may provide some protection from large drops, sprays or splashes, but because they don’t fit tightly, they may allow tiny infected droplets to get into the nose, mouth or eyes. Also, people with the virus on their hands who touch their face under a mask might become infected. People with a respiratory illness can wear these masks to lessen their chance of infecting others.

Scientist carefully insets a pipette into a test tube.

Coronavirus Disease 2019

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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