Misconceptions about COVID-19

There's a lot of information out there about coronavirus (COVID-19) and not all of it is true. How do you know if what you’re seeing online is fact or fiction? Most importantly, get your information from reputable sources like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah Department of Health, and Intermountain Healthcare. Here are common misconceptions about COVID-19.

Is COVID-19 increasing the risk of stroke in infected patients?

A recent case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the possibility that COVID-19 causes blood clots in some individuals; however, other health systems have not seen an increase in strokes. Regardless of virus or no virus, early identification and treatment of stroke gives the best chance for a positive outcome. It is critical that patients seek help from EMS rather than arriving to the hospital on their own if they are experiencing any signs or symptoms of a stroke. This helps direct the patient to the most appropriate stroke center and allows that hospital to prepare for the most efficient response.

Helpful links: New England Journal of Medicine | Stroke symptoms

At what point would it be more beneficial to test for immunity rather than focusing on screening the public for COVID-19?

One of the problems with testing for immunity is that we don’t currently have a reliable test available. Antibody testing tells us if someone has been exposed to proteins related to viruses, like COVID-19. These proteins cause our bodies to develop antibodies that are part of our immune response. There are several proteins associated with this new coronavirus that cause antibody production, but there are some similar proteins from other coronaviruses, too. At this time, we don’t know if the presence of these antibodies provides immunity to COVID-19.

Should you really wipe down all your food from the grocery store before putting it away?

Currently, there are no reports of people contracting COVID-19 from food or packaging from grocery stores. You can wipe down packing and allow to air dry as a precaution, but it is not recommended that you wipe down non-packaged food you will ingest with chemical cleaners. To prevent the spread of infection, it’s best practice to regularly clean your kitchen, sanitize kitchen counters, and clean produce before eating. 

Helpful link: FDA - Shopping for Food During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Is the public water supply contaminated with COVID-19?

There’s no evidence that the virus has spread through the water supply. In fact, the treatment in water facilities protects us from pathogens.

Should patients cancel any standing appointments with their healthcare provider in order to avoid hospitals and medical offices where patients infected with COVID-19 may be present?

It’s very important to monitor your health as you normally would and follow up with your physician as scheduled. Many providers are now offering video visits to help sustain social distancing and keep patients and caregivers safe. Call your provider to find out if your appointment can be provided through a video visit. Not all conditions can be seen via video, but your provider can decide the best type of appointment for you.

If I feel sick and I'm worried I may have contracted COVID-19, should I visit an emergency room of InstaCare immediately?

If you're experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, find out if you should be tested by calling the COVID-19 Hotline at 844-442-5224. Calling ahead allows a medical professional to assess your symptoms over the phone and determine if you should be tested for COVID-19. You will likely be referred to testing if you have one of the COVID-19 symptoms (subject to testing capacity). Symptoms of COVID-19 can include: 

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle aches and chills
  • Decreased sense of smell or taste
  • Sore throat

Severe symptoms: If you, your child, or someone you are with is experiencing difficulty breathing and extreme shortness of breath; new confusion or inability to waken/arouse; bluish lips or face; or any other symptoms of a medical emergency, call 911.

If I don't have symptoms of COVID-19 do I still need to wear a mask?

Edward Stenehjem, MD, an infectious diseases expert at Intermountain Healthcare, recommends wearing a mask when you must be in a public place where social distancing is difficult, like a grocery store. But, he cautions, don’t assume a mask automatically means you’re safe. “The homemade cloth masks are a benefit to the community, not the person wearing it,” he said. “That’s because those who don’t have any symptoms might still have the virus, and these masks, when made and worn correctly, help prevent transmission.”

RELATED: COVID-19 Update: Should the public wear masks?

Can I contract COVID-19 from pets or animals?

While the World Health Organization acknowledges there are instances of animals and pets of COVID-19 patients becoming infected with the disease, further evidence is needed to understand if animals and pets can spread the disease. While animals can spread viruses between one another, they are genetically distinct from humans making it extremely hard for viruses to pass between pets and their owners. However, it’s always a good idea wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.

Will drinking and gargling warm water every 15 minutes kill or flush out COVID-19 from my system?

No. While staying hydrated is very important, these practices do not prevent COVID-19. The best infection prevention methods for COVID-19 include wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at work, practicing social distancing, washing your hands, and having good hygiene. 

RELATED: 6 daily habits to help you avoid getting sick

I've heard we can expect the spread of COVID-19 to slow as the weather warms. However, it seems like the virus is spreading now in areas like Singapore, where it's very warm. How long will this virus live at temperatures above 100°F?
 

Generally, coronaviruses survive for shorter periods at higher temperatures and higher humidity than in cooler or dryer environments. However, it’s not yet known whether weather and temperature affect the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like those that cause the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. There’s much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.

I've heard that COVID-19 can last on surfaces from 48 hours to 17 days. How long can it actually survive on surfaces?

It’s not certain how long the virus that causes COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but according to the World Health Organization, the virus seems to behave like other coronaviruses. Studies suggest that coronaviruses in general may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. It also varies under different conditions (e.g. type of surface, temperature or humidity of the environment).

Cleaning visibly dirty surfaces with simple disinfectants is a best practice measure to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses. After cleaning, wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wash them with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose.

I thought COVID-19 was mainly respiratory issues, but now I'm hearing there are GI (gastrointestinal symptoms too. Is that true?

COVID-19 has a wide range of symptoms. Common symptoms include cough, fever, tiredness, and difficulty breathing in severe cases. Less common symptoms have included headache, sore throat, and rhinorrhea, anosmia (loss of smell), and gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea and diarrhea). While experts in consumer behavior say a surge in panic buying is not a surprise during a global pandemic, it’s not necessary to buy large amounts of products like toilet paper to combat COVID-19 symptoms.

Ventilators are being used to treat COVID-19 patients. Is it true that ventilators are lifesaving in the short term, but can cause pneumonia or lung damage and more permanent harm in the long-term?

It’s well known throughout the healthcare community that ventilator-associated lung injury is a risk—particularly with patients who are intubated with ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). That said, here are a few important things to remember: 

  1. In general terms, patients intubated in these settings would almost certainly die without the ventilator.
  2. We have learned a great deal in recent years about how to reduce the risk of ventilator-associated lung injury. Employing those lessons has significantly reduced the risk.
  3. Ventilator-associated pneumonia does occur, but the risk is very low with all the steps we currently employ.

So, while it’s accurate to say there are risks when patients are intubated, particularly for long periods like COVID-19 patients, the benefit far exceeds the risk in patients, particularly those who don’t have pre-existing lung conditions. 

What is the risk of disease transmission from clothing exposed during work?

While there have been no documented cases of transmission of COVID-19 via clothing and shoes at this point, following proper personal protective equipment guidelines at work and cleaning and disinfecting clothes properly is essential for preventing disease transmission.

RELATED: How to stay safe when you come home from work