Amid a worldwide pandemic, misinformation and fake news can be a dangerous tool in a world that is already on edge. Whether it’s with COVID-19 scams, clickbait articles or false information, staying up to date on COVID-19 can be hard without falling prey to misinformation. As a lot of these “facts” have been used to spread hate, racism, false information and fraudulent safety procedures, it’s important to recognize the danger of spreading misinformation from an ethical, healthcare and moral standpoint. Through this article, we will answer the most burning questions related to COVID-19 as relayed by legitimate sources such as The Public Health Agency of Canada, The World Health Organization (WHO) and The Center for Disease Control (CDC). Feel free to visit the resources section below for more information from legitimate sources and answers to questions we might not have touched on. Be sure to check out our previous COVID-19 articles here, here and here.
At Senior Homecare by Angels, we can help ease your fears of COVID-19 by putting you in touch with Alberta Health Services (AHS) and/or trusted doctors. As an essential service, we work hand in hand with AHS and the Office of the Public Trustee and know how to contact them to address your concerns. Feel free to ask any of our care staff for tips on how to stay safe during this time. Whether you are in St. Albert, Edmonton, Sherwood Park, Spruce Grove or other surrounding communities, check out our companion care services here or other homecare services here if you require other care!
1. Do Masks Actually Protect You From COVID-19?
A: As reported by the CDC and WHO, wearing a mask is not necessary for healthy citizens. A mask provides a false sense of security and truly does not help you from COVID-19. The only time you should wear a mask is if you are ill/have COVID-19, are a healthcare provider, or are caring for someone positive for COVID-19. This will help you from directly transferring COVID-19 to others by providing a barrier to bodily fluids. Though wearing a mask is not harmful if you choose to do so, make sure it is matched with frequent hand washing. COVID-19 is virus transferred through water droplets (coughs, sneezing) and infected surfaces. Therefore, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face are the best practices to avoid infection. If you choose to wear a mask, make sure it is attached and secured properly. A video on how to do so is available here. From a reminder standpoint, seeing masks in public may remind people to maintain proper social distance. On the other hand, keep in mind, that just because you wear a mask, does not mean proper social distancing should be ignored.
2. Do Gloves Help Protect You From COVID-19?
A: As with masks, gloves are more of a healthcare symbol rather than effective. While, yes, gloves will protect your hands from the outside world, it does not directly protect you from COVID-19. As stated above, COVID-19 is transferred via droplets and therefore cannot penetrate the skin. In this case, touching infected surfaces with your hands and touching your face or being in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 are the only ways the infection can spread. Therefore, if you have gloves on and touch your face it would be no different than if you were using your bare hands. Gloves are a great reminder to not touch your face while using them, however, their effectiveness is inconsequential. If you are going to buy gloves make sure they are single-use. Remember, if you are using gloves, make sure to dispose of them and wash your hands after.
3. Does Using Hand Sanitizer Help Keep You Protected?
A: From a basic standpoint, yes, hand sanitizer will help protect you against COVID-19, however, the full answer is a bit more complicated. As stated by the CDC, hand sanitizer can help against certain bacteria and viruses only if used correctly. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers that are above the 60% alcohol mark are the most effective in killing germs. However, hand sanitizer doesn’t kill the vast array of germs as washing your hands would. For example, norovirus (stomach bug) and Cryptosporidium (causes diarrhea) are not killed by hand sanitizer due alcohol to not being able to penetrate either germ (but washing your hands will). Furthermore, those who use hand sanitizer will often not use it correctly. People usually get sick because they didn’t use enough hand sanitizer, didn’t let it dry fully or didn’t rub it into their hands appropriately. A video on how to properly use hand sanitizer can be found here. Hand sanitizer loses its effectiveness if you have dirt or grease on your hands as hand sanitizer will not penetrate to the skin. Remember, hand sanitizer should only be used if you do not have access to washing your hands. It should not be used as an alternative if washing your hands is possible. If you are going to buy hand sanitizer, make sure you buy one that is 60% alcohol or above and avoid buying alcohol-free hand sanitizers as they are not as effective.
4. Is Washing Your Hands as Important as Experts Say?
A: Yes, washing your hands is the best and most effective way to stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as other germs. Washing your hands pairs soap, water and friction together to effectively clean your hands from any germs, diseases, dirt, and grime. When washing your hands, soap effectively penetrates germs of all kinds by breaking down cell membranes of bacteria, capsule, and envelopes of viruses while also removing dirt and grime by the friction and rubbing of your hands. For COVID-19 in particular, amphiphiles (fat-like substances) in soap compete with the virus’ lipid (fatty) envelope to deactivate the virus. Unlike hand sanitizer, soap is drastically more effective in killing and washing off germs from your hands. Luckily, all soaps have a wide range of effectiveness so it does not matter what kind you use. Whether you use hot or cold water or different kind of soaps, hand washing is scientifically supported to be the greatest tool you can use to stay safe.
5. I’ve Heard COVID-19 Called the Chinese Virus, what is the Proper Terminology?
A: COVID-19 has been called a lot of names since its first reporting late last year. However, a lot of these names come from stigma and racism toward Chinese people and others of Asian descent. As reported by every major news outlet, the CDC, WHO and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the virus we are talking about today is called COVID-19, coronavirus or novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Calling the virus anything else is not only incorrect but also extremely unethical. Though the virus did start in Wuhan, China, calling the virus the Chinese virus or any other variant is racist and should not be described as such. Chinese people are not to blame for the virus and should not be treated with disrespect. Don’t fall for these news outlets sparking cultural divides.
6. Is Everyone Equally Susceptible To COVID-19?
A: Though everyone is at risk for catching COVID-19, some may be more at risk than others. For example, those with pre-existing medical conditions (diabetes, health disease)/those who are immunocompromised are more vulnerable to become severely ill with COVID-19. These individuals are less likely to be able to fight off the virus and infection can be extremely deadly for them. This is due to having a less effective immune system because of pre-existing medical conditions. To combat this, self-isolation and standard hygiene practices are the best precautions you can take to stay healthy under these conditions. Overall, your ethnicity, sex or age is not a factor when it comes to being infected with COVID-19. Everyone can be infected with the virus, however, your body’s ability to combat the virus is varied depending on your health and age. Remember, even if you are young and healthy, it does not mean you cannot become seriously ill due to COVID-19.
7. Why Isn’t There a Cure for COVID-19, Why Aren’t Antibiotics Used?
A: Antibiotics are used to treat bacteria not viruses. COVID-19 is a virus, therefore, antibiotics would be ineffective in treating COVID-19. As for a cure, researchers are currently trying to find a vaccine as well as effective antiviral medication to treat COVID-19. Keep in mind, we are still months if not years out from finding effective treatment as trials are rigorous and take several years to bring to market. More can be learned here. So far there is no cure or medicine you can take to stop COVID-19. Most patients recover by having an effective immune system (sometimes hospitalization is needed) and proper rest. Home remedies will not kill the virus and the only way to be tested for the virus is through Alberta Health Services (there is no such thing as home testing).
8. Will Social Isolation Truly Protect You From COVID-19?
A: You may have heard the term self-isolation (social isolation) and social distancing being used to help reduce the spread of the virus. Self-isolation refers to staying home, whether you are sick or not, to reduce spreading or potentially being infected with COVID-19. This means staying in your house as much as possible, avoiding social gatherings and reducing the time you go to places that are occupied by larger groups of people (grocery stores, restaurants, etc.). Social distancing means maintain a minimum of 2 metres between yourself and another individual to reduce infection. But, is all of this really necessary? Yes, it absolutely is. As stated by healthcare professionals, these procedures help reduce the spread of the virus and protect you and others from infection. COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease that has nearly spread to a million people worldwide. That is no small number and will easily increase over time without the public taking these procedures to heart. As seen in countries like Italy and The United States, without quick and vigilant safety procedures, the spread and death rate can increase drastically. Even if you are younger in age or asymptomatic (showing no symptoms), it does not mean you can’t transfer COVID-19 to a sensitive individual or become seriously ill yourself. As with other diseases, you may have the virus without even knowing it and transfer it to another individual or a loved one. As COVID-19 has an incubation period (time in which the infection takes hold and symptoms are apparent) of 14 days, it does not mean you can’t spread the virus to another person at this time. Keep in mind, just because you are asymptomatic, does not mean you can still do damage to another person. Staying in your home and practicing social distancing helps reduce the spread of the virus and keeps yourself and others around you safe. These practices are incredibly necessary and should be followed at all times if possible.
9. Can my Pets Get COVID-19?
A: It is not possible for your pet to transfer COVID-19 to you. Though animals do carry viruses and disease, it doesn’t mean they can transfer all of them to humans. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses causing the common cold to SARS-CoV. Some coronaviruses are even present in animals, such as pets, however, it does not mean it is transferable to humans. Viruses that infect animals have different receptors and structures that do not match up to human immune cells and therefore infection is not possible. Though this is not always the case as these viruses have mutated and recombined their genes to allow for transfer to humans (as seen from Ebola in fruit bats and MERS-CoV in camels), there is no evidence of pets transferring COVID-19 to humans.
10. Is COVID-19 Just Like the Flu?
A: Though COVID-19 has symptoms very similar to the flu, COVID-19 is by far much deadlier. COVID-19 has now spread across the world to nearly one million people. The death rate for COVID-19 is around 3% which equates to almost 53,000 individuals (though it’s expected to be much higher). In comparison, the flu has a mortality rate of 0.1%. Influenza has a shorted incubation period and can be diagnosed more quickly as it is a common disease. Furthermore, COVID-19 has a higher reproductive number where the infected individual can pass the virus to a higher number of people. This is not the case for influenza, however, influenza can spread more easily. Keep in mind, COVID-19 is not a death sentence and in most cases, individuals infected with the virus experience mild symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, tiredness) without hospitalization.
Though COVID-19 is a serious disease, it’s important to not get swept up in misinformation. Misinformation leads to fear-mongering and divides between people. Remember, practice caution not panic and stay up to date on news from valid healthcare professionals and news sources. Stay safe, practice social distancing, self-isolate and check your facts before you decide to share a story on social media.
At Senior Homecare by Angels, we are upholding the proper safety and healthcare measures to keep you safe and free of infection. If you need transportation to doctor’s appointments we are there for you. If you are in isolation or not confident to leave your house, we can deliver groceries, prescriptions or other essentials! Even if you do not have a care staff in your home, we can still help you out remotely.
Feel free to ask any Senior Homecare by Angels caregiver for advice on how best to contact healthcare professionals about information regarding coronavirus.
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CDC Hand Sanitizer
CDC Hand Washing
COVID-19 and Animals
Senior COVID-19 Resources
COVID-19 Info for Albertans
Government of Canada COVID-19 Info Sheet
Reputable News Articles:
Types of Soap
How to Use Hand Sanitizer
How to Wash Your Hands
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