Dr. Mehrdad Ayati, internationally known in the field of Geriatric Medicine, is a speaker, author, and adjunct clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. As an advisor for the Senate Special Committee on Aging, he will be sharing updates for Aging Populations on a weekly basis regarding COVID-19.
Truth or a Myth? While scientists across the globe are hard at work finding answers and solutions, peer-reviewed articles, research and results are limited. Therefore, people are confused and in need of clarification and simplification of medical facts. Unfortunately, many have started self-medicating themselves and putting their lives in danger by following unproven and false remedies. Here are some myths to watch out for.
Are painkillers safe?
French health minister recently provided a warning to coronavirus patients to avoid taking painkillers from the Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and aspirin because they might worsen symptoms by increasing receptors that the virus uses to infect cells. He urged people to take acetaminophen instead. There are no data to back up this statement. Physicians currently recommend acetaminophen or NSAIDs for reducing fever and mild symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through mosquito bites?
No evidence exists to indicate that mosquitos can transmit COVID-19.
Can hand dryers kill COVID-19?
Hand dyers are not effective in killing this virus.
Can ultraviolet lamps kill the COVID-19 virus?
UV lamps can be used to disinfect surfaces and laboratory equipment. However, they should not be used to sterilize your skin as they can cause irritation and damage.
Can thermal scanners detect people with COVID-19?
People with COVID-19 can show no symptoms or have mild symptoms. One of these symptoms can be a fever. Thermal scanners detect people who have a higher body temperature. Therefore, they are not accurate in detecting if someone is a carrier of COVID-19. Even if a person has a fever it does not mean that they are infected with COVID- 19. They could be just suffering from the common cold or the flu.
Can spraying alcohol or chlorine solutions destroy the COVID-19 virus? What about drinking alcohol?
Alcohol (70 percent solution) and chlorine-based solutions can kill this virus on surfaces and should not be used to spray your skin or hair nor should they be ingested. They can cause severe harm and even death if they are used on any biological surfaces or internally.
If I have had the pneumonia vaccine am I protected against COVID-19?
No. COVID-19 is a new virus and there is no vaccine currently against this viral infection. While influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations are strongly advised they will not protect you via COVID-19 viral infection.
Can rinsing your nose/mouth/throat with saline solutions protect you against the COVID-19 infection?
No. While there is limited evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline solutions can help people recover more quickly from the common cold or allergies, there is no evidence indicating that this procedure would protect you against the COVID-19 infection. People swallowing or gargling with bleach, concentrated saltwater, ethanol, essential oils, vinegar or steroids can actually put themselves in severe danger.
Can taking supplements, vitamins, probiotics, and herbal remedies prevent COVID-19 infections?
Most studies and research done to date do not indicate that these products can decrease or prevent infection with COVID-19 and other viruses including the flu. For example, systematic reviews have found that zinc intake is associated with a reduction in the duration and severity of cold symptoms but not prevention. If you take zinc daily, it does not prevent you from getting respiratory symptoms, but if you get cold symptoms, it may shorten the course of the disease. Therefore, while it is curial to eat healthily, get adequate sleep and exercise for overall physical and mental well-being, loading your system with vitamins, supplements and over the counter remedies is not recommended. Most of these products are not controlled by the FDA and may actually cause more harm. Reports in different countries have indicated that myths about consumption and overconsumption of alcohol, garlic, ginger, and other natural or synthetic remedies have resulted in severe illness and even death.
Can COVID-19 mutate and is there going to be a vaccine soon?
Currently, there is no vaccine for this coronavirus. A commercially available vaccine is estimated to be available within a year to a year and a half from now. COVID-19 is an RNA virus. RNA viruses undergo mutation, which means they can change frequently. So far, the rate of mutation for COVID-19 is approximately two mutations per month. This is a much slower rate than that of the influenza virus, which averages about eight to 10 mutations per month. However, it is about 100 times faster than DNA viruses. The S and L type mutant of COVID-19 were first identified in China. Since then other strains of the virus have been found in people infected on the Grand Princess cruise ship as well as in the US and across Europe. Therefore, any developed vaccine might not protect against different mutants of COVID-19. Similar to the flu vaccine the population will need to be vaccinated every year and COVID-19 will become a recurring fact of life. But unlike the flu COVID-19 will be much more virulent and deadlier unless if this virus makes a mistake in replication and becomes less virulent. Furthermore, this means that even if you have been infected with one strain of the COVID-19 you can still get infected with another strain of it.