Busting Coronavirus myths

By James Arthur|

| Carlos PX/Unsplash

As I’m sure you’re all aware, we are currently going through a pandemic – COVID-19, otherwise known as SARS-Cov-2. If you followed the TV show MythBusters, you might remember that The MythBusters were experts in their respective field– special effects. I, however, spend my time modelling the pandemic, with the statistics coming in from the different areas of the UK. I also completed a course relating to virology under the University of Cambridge over the past couple of weeks and I thought that I’d dispel some myths!

Without further ado, let us get busting those myths and misconceptions!

Myth 1 – ‘It won’t happen to me’

This is the first and most crucial misconception. This one is ingrained in human nature. In a paper by Frank P. McKenna using experimental evidence, it is shown that rather than Optimism, it is the Illusion of Control at work here — a tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events. This is a complete and utter myth, and it may happen to you if you don’t take the precautions. This leaves the many with a choice, follow the guidance or become a number on the news. What will you choose?

Not convinced? Look at it this way, the more you take risks, the bigger your chance of getting ill is. All it takes is for you to breathe in the droplets of somebody infected and you are infected as well. The problem here is that some people are asymptomatic, meaning that they will not cough or show any physical evidence that they have the virus. It’s like a lion and you are a water buffalo; you are unable to outrun it, so you must outsmart it!

Myth 2 – ‘Popping down to the shop won’t affect my chances’

Wrong! Having a ‘pop’ to the shops means that you are still going to an area where other people have been. Given the climate before the 10th May, this is one of the most dangerous things you can do. I am aware sometimes doing one big weekly shop may not be a viable option for people, although ‘popping’ down to grab unessential items more than once a week will increase your chances of catching the virus. Given some models created by Aalto University and by 3Blue1Brown:

| Aalto University
| 3Blue1Brown

The two videos show models of Coronavirus – they are both rather bittersweet, because although they show many deaths and expansions of the R number, they show light at the end of the tunnel. This light can be reached if and only if we follow the guidelines.  

Myth 3 – ‘I’m too young to catch it’

Firstly, some people may have an undiagnosed underlying health condition, which is more prevalent than you’d believe. Three-quarters of a million people are suspected to be undiagnosed with Diabetes. Twelve young people die every week from underlying heart conditions in normal conditions; under SARS-CoV-2, this is bound to increase drastically. Finally, what surprised me the most – there are 5 million people suspected undiagnosed cases of Hypertension in the UK. So, you may be at a higher risk of catching SARS-CoV-2 than you think. 

“The more you take risks, the bigger your chance of getting ill is” | Nik/Unsplash

For those that are still unconvinced and think only the older demographic will be severely affected, look no further than South Korea — a country thought to be handling SARS-CoV-2, are hurtling towards a second peak. WHO have recently said that a sixth of people who are under 60 have died from SARS-CoV-2. Italy has said that they have had ten to fifteen per cent of people under the age of 50 die. Given this evidence, it seems to affect younger people later in the pandemic, so be careful.

Myth 4 – ‘Alternate Treatments’

There has been a big alternative treatment called ‘COVID-organics’, coming from Madagascar, that has hit the headlines. For those of you not familiar, the Madagascan President came out at the end of April and announced he had a cure for SARS-CoV-2; he called it COVID-Organics and released it across Africa. He said that it ‘cured two people’, but finding out twenty people was the sample size invalidated this — twenty is too small of a sample size to make any judgement. Those two people could have been flukes or just have been getting better already. There has been no scientific evidence that any herbal or alternative treatments can help with SARS-CoV-2.

Myth 5 – ‘*cough* I’m fine honestly *cough*’

If you feel unwell, acknowledge it. Just because you think that other people are ‘worse’ or are more in need of help than you, it does not mean that you shouldn’t get help, get tested or follow the advice as well. If you have any SARS-CoV-2 symptoms which are:

A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you don’t need to measure your temperature).

A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual).

“If you feel unwell, acknowledge it” | Stephanie Martin/Unsplash

The final note is neither a myth nor busting anything, this is almost a PSA. In the time it’s taken for this article to go live, a lot of changes have occurred to the UK’s restrictions. That is, apart from the core message: stay home, stay safe and protect the vulnerable. We’re in a global health crisis and we need to act as such. The virus is a scary thing, and controlling it may seem out of our hands, but remember, by staying home and limiting your contact, you’re protecting yourself and protecting others. 

The views expressed in this publication are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Falmouth University, the University of Exeter or Falmouth and Exeter Students’ Union.