Since early 2020, when we started hearing about a new coronavirus, eventually dubbed SARS-CoV-2, our understanding of what it is, how it infects people, who it infects, and how we can protect ourselves, has evolved along with our knowledge on the subject.
But that evolution - and the changing information and recommendations that accompanied it - has also sown confusion and, in some cases, deliberate misinformation.
“Just as COVID-19 has spread around the world, so have rumors, falsehoods and misinformation.
And they can be just as dangerous, "said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday.
LOOK: Children can transmit the coronavirus even if their symptoms are mild or null, says study
Misinformation or misinformation has led people to self-harm based on falsehoods, to self-medicate with toxic chemicals or dangerous drugs, and to not take the precautions they should take, Tedros said.
It has also affected our trust in health institutions and systems, which could cause people to turn their backs on new treatments and vaccines if they do not trust them.
Tedros stated that WHO and its partners are “calling on all countries to put in place national action plans to promote science-based health information and combat misinformation.
And we call on the media, technology companies, civil society, researchers and people around the world to prevent the 'infodemic' from spreading, "he said.
These are some of the common myths and misconceptions floating around, and the state of the science as we understand it to date.
Misconception 1: the virus only affects older people
At a rally Monday, President Trump said: “It affects older people.
Older people with heart problems and other problems, if they have other problems.
That is what really affects.
You know, in some states, thousands of people ... no one young.
Less than 18 years old, like nobody else.
The fact is that people of all ages have been affected by the virus.
While older people are much more likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19 or die if infected, younger people are not immune in any way.
In fact, a new study published Wednesday in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that young adults ages 20 to 29 accounted for more than 20% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States during June, July and August, the highest incidence rate of all age groups.
The National Center for Health Statistics has counted more than 1,800 deaths related to covid-19 in young people under 35 years of age, including 419 in people under 25;
851 children under the age of 18 have been hospitalized.
Older people may be more susceptible because they have more pre-existing conditions (called comorbidities) that make a coronavirus infection worse, or their immune systems may weaken with age.
Some young people also have comorbidities that put them at greater risk of becoming seriously ill.
And in some children, the virus can cause their immune systems to overreact, creating inflammation and setting off a cascade of chemical reactions known as a cytokine storm, which wreaks havoc on the body.
It is a condition called multisystemic inflammatory syndrome in children, known as MIS-C.
Misconception 2: masks don't protect you against coronavirus
This is perhaps the most controversial and politicized misconception of all.
At the beginning of the pandemic we were told that masks were not important to those of us who were not in close and regular contact with sick people.
Additionally, due to the shortage that continues to this day, we were asked to keep the N-95 masks for front-line workers.
But masks became a necessity after we began to understand two very important facts.
The first is that people can transmit the virus even if they have no symptoms.
And the second is that the virus is very likely to be spread through the air, in tiny droplets containing viruses called aerosols, and not just by a person coming into contact with an infected surface or large respiratory droplets.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed the revocation of the guide on face masks during the CITIZEN by CNN conference on Tuesday.
"One of the things the public needs to understand is that this is an evolving situation," he said.
“We did not know that between 40% and 45% of people were asymptomatic, nor did we know that a substantial proportion of people who become infected are infected by people who have no symptoms.
That makes it extremely important that everyone wears a mask, "he said, noting that" the data now is very, very clear.
How do the masks work?
Masks protect other people against droplets that contain virus from the mask wearer that are released into the air by breathing, sneezing, coughing, singing, or screaming.
Some studies have found that masks can reduce the number of droplets that a person breathes in the air by up to 90%.
And one study found that face masks reduce the transmission of respiratory viruses by up to 56% percent.
But not all skins are created equal, so choose wisely.
Surgical masks, the paper ones that doctors use, have an electrostatically charged filter that traps viral particles like a blanket grabs socks in the dryer.
Avoid masks with valves;
While they make it a bit easier to breathe out, they release unfiltered air, so if the wearer is contagious, it doesn't protect others, defeating the purpose of the mask in the first place.
Misconception 3: You can only get COVID-19 if you've been in close contact with someone who has symptoms.
Remember that choir in Washington state?
Of 61 members, there was one person who was symptomatic and after 2.5 hours of practice on two separate days, 87% of the group became ill.
It was early evidence that the virus could spread not just through touch or through respiratory droplets (which tend to fall to the ground quickly and don't travel far), but through aerosols, which can linger in the air for hours and hours. travel much more than 2 meters - perhaps 6 or more, especially in places with little air circulation.
While the CDC and WHO do not yet explicitly acknowledge this, they are moving in that direction.
The CDC even released a new guidance regarding airborne broadcast over the weekend, but the agency reverted to its previous guidance on Monday, explaining that the new wording was a draft version that had not yet been fully revised.
"The interesting thing about that is that it doesn't change anything we've been saying," Fauci said during Tuesday's conference.
"It means wearing the mask, it means avoiding close contact, it means avoiding crowds."
Fauci also reiterated: "Outdoors is better than indoors, because if there are aerosols indoors, you can have some recirculation."
Keep in mind that studies have shown that about 80% of cases originate between 10% and 20% of people.
It is not because these people are somehow different, but rather because of the situations they find themselves in: crowded indoor spaces like bars, restaurants, factories, and prisons or gatherings that people approach, like weddings or churches - events and spaces that illuminate the broadcast game.
Misconception 4: this is like the flu
The president insisted, "this is the flu, this is like the flu."
But it really is not.
It is true that both covid-19 and the flu are caused by respiratory viruses and can share some similar symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, and cough.
And in both cases, some people have milder symptoms than others.
But there are also big differences.
While the numbers change based on location and time period, based on the CDC's most recent best estimate, the likelihood of dying from COVID-19, the death rate from infection, is very low for people under the age of 50. .
But for people 50 to 69 years old, it is 0.5%, and for people 70 years and older, it increases to 5.4%.
The overall chances of dying from the flu are about 0.1%.
Also, this year there have been more than 200,000 "excess deaths" so far, compared to last year.
The biggest difference: the covid-19.
According to the CDC, “These deaths could represent misclassified COVID-19 deaths, or potentially could be indirectly related to the COVID-19 pandemic (for example, deaths from other causes that occur in the context of shortages of healthcare or systems overloaded healthcare providers) ».
And according to CDC statistics, Covid-19 will likely rank among the top 10 causes of death in the country for all ages in 2020. If current numbers are any indication, it may rank at number three. , after heart disease and cancer.
Misconception 5: everyone can get vaccinated this winter
There has been a lot of speculation about when we will have a vaccine, with some optimistic projections as early as October.
Several of the developers anticipate having data to share this fall.
But Fauci and other public health leaders have said it is highly unlikely that a vaccine will be available by Election Day.
And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering new rules for licensing a COVID-19 vaccine, according to three sources familiar with the situation, and calculations show that These rules would carry authorization beyond Election Day.
That would frustrate the hopes of President Trump, who has repeatedly said the vaccine could be ready by November 3.
Even if a vaccine did get an emergency use authorization or outright approval this fall, there is physically no way that enough doses will be immediately available to everyone.
'If it is shown to be effective in November or December, we don't have enough doses of vaccine.
We would have a few million in November and maybe 10, 20 million of each in December.
That will be enough to… start vaccinating certain populations, but not the entire population, ”Dr. Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, the government's vaccine initiative, told me.
Slaoui, who pointed out that it is not even a fact that any vaccine is effective enough because the data is not included, said that certain groups would be prioritized, such as healthcare workers and people vulnerable to the disease.
"For the rest of us, it seems more like mid-2021," he said, a timeline also presented by Fauci.
Slaoui also returned to what Fauci and others have emphasized.
“Let's stay focused on what the science says to help us get through this.
I'm as excited as anyone to get a vaccine, but in the meantime there are simple and effective things we can do ourselves: wash our hands, avoid large gatherings, and wear a mask.
Nadia Kounang and Andrea Kane contributed to this report.
Nadia Kounang and Andrea Kane contributed to this report.