The worldwide spread of COVID-19 and the impact it’s currently having on travel, sports, the economy, and healthcare (among other things) is both unprecedented and concerning. A virus that was born out of a wet market in China has now seen worldwide transmission and whole countries on lockdown. With all of the information coming out about COVID-19, however, it’s hard to know what is actually true and what is simply inaccurate or an exaggeration. Below are 5 common myths about COVID-19 along with 3 ways to help boost your immune system during these chaotic times.
Myth 1: If I’m experiencing cold and flu symptoms, I definitely have COVID-19.
The fact that you’re experiencing cold and flu symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have COVID-19. There are a few key differences between the symptoms of COVID-19 and both the cold and flu. See the CDC chart below for a comparison of symptoms:
Myth 2: The mortality rate of COVID-19 is significantly higher than the flu.
The reported mortality rate of 2-3% for COVID-19 (vs the flu at less than 1%) is actually a bit misleading. The 2-3% mortality rate for COVID-19 comes from the Chinese Wuhan data that was calculated as the percentage of people tested and confirmed sick that died. The Wuhan data, however, fails to take into account the people who contracted the virus but were not tested and/or confirmed sick, which are numbers that need to be included to accurately calculate the mortality rate. We can get a more accurate mortality rate of COVID-19 from both South Korea and the Japanese Princess Cruise ship (a cruise ship off the coast of Japan that was infected with COVID-19) as both of those data sources tested larger percentages of the population infected (source, source). Both South Korea and the Princess Cruise ship showed COVID-19 mortality rates under 1%, a percentage more on par with the flu.
Myth 3: COVID-19 is able live on surfaces significantly longer than the flu
This myth was spawned from research conducted on viruses similar to COVID-19, but is misleading for two reasons. First, the CDC has concluded that there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through surface contact (source). Second, the studies that have shown other coronaviruses (not COVID-19 specifically) surviving for up to 9 days on plastic also show that the viral load of those coronaviruses is substantially less after about 2 days, dramatically decreasing their ability in infect (source, source).
Myth 4: COVID-19 is transmitted through the air and the flu isn’t.
Both COVID-19 and the flu are transmitted through water particles in the air (source). Aerosolization of the virus is not a characteristic unique to COVID-19.
Myth 5: COVID-19 cases in the US will keep climbing through the summer, eventually making us like China.
Based on historical data available for the flu (and the fact that COVID-19 is a virus spread primarily through water particles in the air like the flu), there is no reason to believe that COVID-19 cases will not taper off as the warmer weather approaches, just like the flu. As seen in the CDC chart below, there has never been a flu peak later than March; and since COVID-19 is a virus primarily transmitted the same way as the flu, COVID-19 should follow a similar peak pattern to the flu. The reason the flu cases drop off after March is due to warm temperatures dramatically impacting airborne virus’ ability to survive. As the spread of COVID-19 cases is also largely dependent on airborne virus survival, COVID-19 cases should drop off upon the arrival of warmer weather.
Although there may be quite a few COVID-19 myths circulating, COVID-19 is still an infectious virus that can be very serious for at risk groups of people. Thus, protecting yourself from the virus and preventing the spread of COVID-19 are both very important. Below we’ve listed three ways you can give your immune system an extra bump during these chaotic times.
1. Take your vitamins and probiotics
Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, and probiotic supplementation have all been shown to enhance immune function and/or lessen the duration of illnesses (source).
2. Foam Roll (self-massage)
Massage is a powerful tool that not only helps maintain muscle and fascial health, but has benefits for the immune system as well. According to this article, massage can increase lymphocytes (white blood cells that play an important role in fighting disease), lower cytokines (molecules are involved with inflammation), lower cortisol (the stress hormone), and lower vasopressin (a hormone associated with aggressive behavior). Thus, spending some time each day on your foam roller (self-massage) might just give your immune system an extra bump in addition to increasing oxygen rich blood flow in muscles (source), speeding muscle recovery (source), improving flexibility (source), and increasing your range of motion (source).
Maintaining proper hydration is important to keep the body performing optimally. Hydration is especially important when you’re sick as your body is put under the additional stress of fighting off an infection (source). Additionally, symptoms such as fever dehydrate the body and can make it more difficult to fight off an infection. It is important to note, however, that drinking water alone when you’re dehydrated is not enough to properly rehydrate the body. To effectively hydrate, electrolytes need to be replenished as well.