Society, as a whole, is always interested in epidemics and pandemics. It seems as if people always want to know their risk, the risk that a loved one might be infected, what are their risks if they should travel.
2018 marked the 100th anniversary of what is best known as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. It is estimated that anywhere between 50 and 100 million people around the globe perished.
We have yet to experience something this grave, but in just the first few years of this century, we have managed to control H1N1, Ebola, SARS, and MERS. The coronavirus has now reared its ugly head, and with it, renewed myths about pandemics, cures, and how these viruses spread.
Below are a few myths (and the truth) that surround all pandemics and epidemics. Do you know the correct answers?
- Viruses and pathogens which start in mainly poor countries don’t often move to wealthier nations, such as the United States.
- Viruses that are found in animals don’t mutate and transfer to humans.
- Viruses can’t live in hot weather.
- Pandemic viruses are superbugs that are bred and spread by government officials to control the masses.
- You are far more likely to get the regular flu than a pandemic virus, such as the coronavirus COVID-19.
- Most viruses can live for months (or weeks) on packages, paper money, or hard surfaces like ATM pads.
Our answers to the above statements are found below.
- While many people, including some experts, believed that many of the viruses and diseases that affected poor, overpopulated countries, such as South-East Asia or Africa, would never reach nations that were considered more affluent, this was proven FALSE by SARS. This virus hit especially hard and was transmitted easily, through affluent hospitals and clinics.
- That myth has been destroyed first by the SARS virus in 2003 when it was discovered that this respiratory illness thought to live only in birds was found in humans, and currently through the coronavirus.
- This is also a myth. While viruses prefer cooler temperatures, they adapt and evolve to their surroundings. This is what occurred with MERS, which thrived quite easily in arid desert areas and the hot, steamy jungles of Africa.
- Myths like this have been around for decades, perhaps longer. Those who want to believe that the government is involved in everything negative will always look for reasons to hate “the establishment.” The truth, however, is that most governments over the years have downplayed epidemics or pandemics to avoid panicking citizens.
- This is a mixed bag of myth, truth, and unknown factors. While health officials, such as WHO, know that viruses don’t live very long (only a few hours at best) on soft surfaces, such as paper money and clothing, it can live for several days on harder surfaces, including ATM pads, coins, and railings. How long viruses live will depend on surface material, temperature, and weather conditions, such as humidity.
Since the answer to number 5 on our list can vary in certain conditions, the best advice is to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers (at a minimum of 60% alcohol), wipe down often touched or public surfaces with a disinfectant, and wash your hands frequently.
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