Speculation, rumors, myths and blatant falsehoods about COVID-19 have made the rounds on social media.
Such fiction permeates the internet and can mislead people who aren’t extremely careful about where they get their information.
Of course, as health professionals working within a scope of practice, massage therapists understand the necessity of keeping up with accurate information.
COVID-19: A Brief History
COVID-19 was first documented in December 2019. By May 1, more than 3.3 million documented cases and 235,000 deaths were reported worldwide.
As of May 1, the U.S. had over 1.1 million of those cases and over 64,000 of those deaths.
At the onset, the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases and epidemic/pandemic response took extraordinary steps to make accurate information about the virus and COVID-19 available to everyone.
Medical-science information and guidance were provided by infectious disease experts at the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), other medical organizations, and physicians who were seeing COVID-19 patients.
Unfortunately, mixed messages from government officials, contrary opinions from celebrities and pundits, and inaccurate claims by people trying to make money from the crisis have all created an atmosphere of confusion in which baseless rumors and speculation have grown.
Fact Vs. Fiction
Let’s look at some of the examples of speculation, rumors, myths and blatant falsehoods about COVID-19 that have made the rounds on social media, and some accurate information to combat them.
Fiction: “COVID-19 is a form of influenza.”
• COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
• SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus.
• Influenza viruses have different shapes, sizes, genetics and other characteristics that are quite different from coronaviruses. Though some of the symptoms they cause are similar, they rely on different mechanisms and have different effects on body organs and systems. COVID-19 is not a form of influenza.
Fiction: “COVID-19 can be prevented by receiving a flu vaccine.”
• Flu vaccines only work against influenza viruses. SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus.
Fiction: “COVID-19 is less infectious than influenza.”
• The basic reproductive ratio, R0,is the expected number of additional people that will be infected by each person who carries the disease.
• The mean R0 of influenza is estimated to be 1.28.
• The mean R0 of COVID-19 is estimated to be 2.2 to 2.7, according to the CDC, meaning it is far more infectious than influenza.
Fiction: “COVID-19 is less deadly than influenza.”
• Influenza has an overall fatality rate of below 0.1%.
• COVID-19 has an overall fatality rate of 3-4%. However, the WHO acknowledges “the true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand.”
Fiction: “This disease or virus is officially named just coronavirus.”
• The virus was originally named 2019-nCoV, short for “novel coronavirus found in 2019.”
• The virus and its species were officially named in February 2020 by expert virologists and the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). The virus name is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The species to which the virus SARS-CoV-2 belongs is Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus.
• Diseases are named by the World Health Organization (WHO) using their best practices criteria. WHO has named the disease COVID-19, short for “coronavirus disease 2019.”
• “Coronavirus” is the word used in the popular vernacular to refer to the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fiction: “COVID-19 is caused or transmitted by 5G technology.”
• We have been using 5G frequencies for over 50 years. They are non-ionizing, which means they are unable to penetrate human skin.
• Radio waves and mobile networks cannot create nor transmit biological viruses.
• SARS-CoV-2 is primarily spread via respiratory droplets when infected people exhale, cough, sneeze or speak. People can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, mouth or nose.
Fiction: “SARS-CoV-2 is manmade.”
• Genetic analysis found that SARS-CoV-2 is most closely related to several viruses that are not known to cause disease in humans.
• Virologists state that attempts to create or modify a virus to harm humans would be based on viruses already known to cause disease in humans.
• On April 30, the US intelligence community released a report stating that SARS-CoV-2 is not manmade nor genetically modified.
Fiction: “SARS-CoV-2 was deliberately weaponized from a natural virus.”
• Computer models based on the known viral structure indicate it wouldn’t be very infectious or dangerous to people.
• Virologists state that people attempting to weaponize a virus would not have tried an approach that was so ineffective in computer simulations.
Fiction: “Exposing yourself to the sun or hot temperatures, such as in a sauna, will prevent COVID-19.”
• COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in all geographic areas, including areas with hot and humid weather.
• Many people who live in hot climates or spend a lot of time in the sun have been infected with COVID-19.
Fiction: “Young people don’t have to worry about COVID-19. “
• Young people, including infants and children, have contracted COVID-19. People of all ages are susceptible, although the elderly and people with pre-existing medical conditions are at greater risk. Young people should be taught to follow risk mitigation, starting with washing hands often.
Fiction: “Antibiotics might help treat COVID-19.”
• Antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses.
• If hospitalized, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Fiction: “Rinsing your nose with saline will help prevent COVID-19 infection.”
• There is no evidence that regularly rinsing your nose with saline provides any protection against COVID-19 or any respiratory infections.
Fiction: “Essential oils can be worn, applied or ingested to prevent COVID-19 infection.”
• There is no published scientific evidence that any essential oil can prevent COVID-19 infection.
• The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on essential oil vendors that claim their products are safe or effective for COVID-19 prevention or treatment.
Fiction: “Essential oils can be used as surface disinfectants for SARS-CoV-2.”
No essential oils appear on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2. This list names hundreds of other effective options and provides information including active ingredients.
Fiction: “Infrared light will kill SARS-CoV-2.”
There is no published scientific evidence that infrared light can damage the SARS-CoV-2 virus, nor affect how COVID-19 progresses.
Fiction: “Wearing a mask will not protect anyone from the virus.”
• Wearing a mask (correctly) greatly reduces the risk of you transmitting COVID-19 to other people.
• Wearing a mask can also somewhat reduce your risk of being infected by other people.
You Must Be Well-Informed
Massage therapists are obligated to practice ethically, and that practice includes seeking out and understanding accurate information. We have easy access to a wealth of quality information, so it’s possible to be very well informed.
Of course, massage therapy scope of practice does not include the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of any disease. Further, massage therapists are not routinely trained on how to adapt to highly infectious diseases, nor practiced in how to use personal protection equipment (PPE) correctly.
In epidemics and pandemics, when the risk of contamination and disease transmission is very high, the best thing massage therapists can do is follow guidelines regarding how to minimize risks of becoming infected, and especially how to minimize transmitting diseases to clients and other people.
Sources of Factual Health Information
Here are some excellent sources for learning about infectious diseases, how to minimize risks, and how they might be recognized and treated. They are the best sources to consult first for current information about any infectious disease:
• World Health Organization (WHO)
Sources of Factual Statistical Information
• CNN’s “Where All U.S. States Stand on Reopening” interactive tool will keep you up to date on when your state plans on allowing certain businesses to reopen.
• Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) List N: Disinfectants for use against SARS-CoV-2.
• CDC guidance on decontamination and reuse of disposable filtering face masks.
• For information specific to massage therapy, MASSAGE Magazine’s COVID-19 Resource Page provides articles, advice and information on news, financial resources, self-care and business practices as they relate to coronavirus.
Stay On Top of News
This article was written based on information available May 1, 2020. By the time you read this, there will be more information available about the disease.
Use the sources listed in this article to continue to be updated with the most current and reliable scientific data and recommended best practices. Please follow the guidelines recommended by the CDC and WHO to minimize risks of infection for you, your clients and your loved ones.
About the Author:
Jason Erickson co-owns and practices at Eagan Massage Center. A former chronic pain patient, Jason is an internationally recognized continuing education provider teaching classes on pain science, dermoneuromodulation, sports massage, research literacy and more. His articles and podcast appearances are widely featured.