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Coronavirus fact check: From masks to mortality rates - how to separate fact from fiction


A commuter wears a face mask while taking a bus in Westminster, London, yesterday

A commuter wears a face mask while taking a bus in Westminster, London, yesterday


A commuter wears a face mask while taking a bus in Westminster, London, yesterday

The coronavirus crisis has become a breeding ground for myths and conspiracies - how do we separate fact from fiction?

Fiction: We should all be wearing face masks.

Fact: Singer Bob Geldof and actress Joan Collins are among the celebrities photographed wearing face masks.

If you are showing signs of the virus or have been diagnosed, wearing a mask can protect others.

They are also crucial for health and social care workers looking after patients and are recommended for family members who need to care for someone who has the illness.

In those situations both the patient and carer should wear a mask.

However, scientists say they make very little difference if you are just going about your daily activities, out and about or on the bus.

If you wear a mask, then you must know how to use it and dispose of it properly.

Fiction: It is no more dangerous than winter flu.

Fact: The seasonal flu has a mortality rate of around 0.1pc.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) announced earlier this month that Covid-19 has killed 3.4pc of the people who have caught it so far - a mortality rate far higher than not only the seasonal flu, but also higher than earlier Covid-19 mortality estimates, which were around 2pc.

Fiction: It only kills older people and those who are already sick with other illnesses.

Fact: Older people and those with underlying illnesses are more susceptible and vulnerable to complications and becoming severely ill - but there are other at-risk groups like healthcare workers who are at risk due to higher exposure to the virus.

Anyone can get the coronavirus and for eight in 10 it will be mild. But it is unpredictable and we are still learning about its impact. The WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

Fiction: Hand dryers kill the coronavirus.

Fact: Hand dryers do not get rid of the virus. You need to wash your hands first with soap and water.

Fiction: Rinsing the nose with saline protects against the coronavirus.

Fact: Scientists have found no evidence that this reduces the risk of infection. Some research suggests that it might reduce symptoms of acute respiratory tract infections, but it won't safeguard against the virus.

Fiction: Eating garlic helps prevent infection with the coronavirus.

Fact: Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the coronavirus.

Fiction: Vaccines against pneumonia protect you against the new coronavirus.

Fact: No. Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine, do not provide protection against the new coronavirus. The virus is so new and different that it needs its own vaccine. Researchers are trying to develop a vaccine against 2019-nCoV, and the WHO is supporting their efforts.

Although these vaccines are not effective against 2019-nCoV, vaccination against respiratory illnesses is highly recommended to protect your health.

Fiction: Antibiotics are effective in preventing and treating the new coronavirus.

Fact: No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria. The coronavirus is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. However, if you are hospitalised for the virus you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.

Fiction: Thermal scanners will detect people infected with the new coronavirus.

Fact: They are effective in detecting people who have developed a fever - who have a higher than normal body temperature - because of infection with the coronavirus.

However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever.

This is because it takes between two and 14 days before people who are infected become sick.

Irish Independent