For much of the U.S. it may feel like the world came to a grinding halt last week when
concerns about the spread of the coronavirus shuttered public buildings, open spaces and
schools across the nation. However, cases of the disease have been growing and deaths have
been mounting around the world since it was first discovered in December.
Local cancellations were rapid and accurate news was often hard to find among
the rumors that spread regarding the origination, spread and severity of the disease.
The first US case of the coronavirus was reported Jan. 21 - a Washington state man who had recently returned from China. As of press time Monday, the country has at least 34,354 cases across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
In the US at least 414 people have died, including 95 in Washington state, 114 in New York and 32 in California.
As of Wednesday, March 25, Alabama had 242 reported cases, including four in Baldwin County. Across the entire state 2,321 people had been tested.
Michael McBrearty, M.D., Vice President of Medical Affairs, Thomas Hospital, said many of his patients have asked about the rumors and outright misinformation they have heard concerning the virus.
Here are the most commonly asked questions:
Myth: The flu killed more people, this is not a big deal
McBrearty: “This is a pandemic, which means it is worldwide and of major concern. There is a slow rise in number of cases because COVID-19 tests are still limited. This means that many people with the virus have been in contact with others. The mortality rate for people in the general public with the virus is 3%. Unless people self-isolate better, the pandemic will continue to increase in numbers.”
Myth: This is this the same thing listed as a cold on the back of Clorox bottles
McBrearty: “Products that contain bleach are the best option for killing the virus. We have to stop the contagion. COVID-19 is viable on inanimate objects for 3 – 5 days and humans are a host for the virus – the virus has to be in a living body in order for it to continue to live and spread to others. The best way to contain it is to not spread it.”
Myth: I felt sick weeks ago so I probably had COVID-19
McBrearty: “It’s possible but doubtful. The common cold, flu and allergies have similar symptoms. Unless you have trouble breathing, you should not come to the hospital. This means as stay at home and isolate yourself as much as possible.”
Myth: My friend said a kindergartner tested positive last week so they are not reporting all the cases
McBrearty: “Test kits are very, very limited and only those who fit the risk factors, regardless of age, are eligible for testing at this point in time. For those who do test positive by a healthcare provider, the positive result is always reported.
The main thing is to get people to not spread the disease. If a person is tested and is positive, that person should stay at home unless he or she is experiencing shortness of breath or has respiratory problems.”
Myth: Police are disbanding large crowds like on Bourbon Street in New Orleans so they know something we don't and are hiding information
McBrearty: “Police are disbanding large crowds in areas like New Orleans for the same reason we need to discourage large crowds at beach. We know that COVID-19 is transmitted by droplets from a cough or sneezing and airborne transmission. As long as there are big crowds, COVID-19 will continue to transmit from person to person.”
How do I practice social distancing?
McBrearty: “Playing outside, biking and other outdoor activities, as individuals or families, are okay to do as long as everyone feels well.
Don’t go to any place, including beach, where there are crowds.
Going to a playground is not recommended because the virus can spread when it is on solid surfaces. It’s also difficult to practice social distancing at a playground.
The more contacts you have the more chance to get the virus.”
Should I wear a mask?
McBrearty: “Wearing a mask in public is not beneficial. In fact, it can cause more problems because many people tend to touch the mask and readjust it, which increases the risk of getting the virus.”
How long will this last?
McBrearty: “This could extend out for months.”