Debunking coronavirus myths: How COVID-19 spreads, virus testing, washing your hands, face masks

ByChuck Goudie and Christine Tressel WLS logo
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
COVID-19 myths and misconceptions feed public anxiety
Masks are of the greatest myths of the COVID-19 illness outbreak according to experts, and may be harmful to otherwise healthy people.

As COVID-19 spreads across Illinois and much of the U.S., myths about the disease have also gone viral.

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Among the top misconceptions floated on websites and in chat rooms, identified by ABC7 I-Team experts:

-You need special anti-bacterial soap to keep your hands germ free

-The regular winter flu vaccine protects against COVID-19

-Foreign products coming into the U.S. spread the virus

All of which are false.

RELATED: How COVID-19 'infodemic' is infecting the internet with false information


Regular soap and water for 20 seconds and then towel dried is what you need.

The flu vaccine doesn't protect against COVID-19 and by the time foreign products get here they are considered virus-free.

Also contrary to some internet bunk, experts say cold weather doesn't kill the virus, and neither do hot baths or hand dryers widely used in public bathrooms.

As warm weather approaches, there is no evidence that mosquitoes will transmit COVID-19, and there is currently no suspicion that house pets can be infected and spread the sickness.

WATCH: The right way to wash your hands

Dr. Mark Loafman, chairman of Family Medicine at Cook County Health, explains the proper technique and duration for washing your hands to prevent the spread of illnesses. Scrubbing should continue for at least 20 seconds, which happens to be the amount of time it takes to hum the"Happy Birthday" song twice.


COVID-19 was first reported in China and is thought to have spread mostly by human interaction and by surface contact with the virus.

There are other viral delusions, according to several I-Team experts who we asked for their top myths.

"I think the number one myth is that it was somehow manufactured in a laboratory" said Karla Satchell, Ph.D., a microbiology-immunology researcher at Northwestern Medicine.

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"This was a naturally occurring event that jumped from an animal into a human, and there is plenty of data to support that this occurred naturally, and that it was not manufactured in the library in a laboratory," Satchell said.

RELATED: 100+ products that actually help fight coronavirus

Did you know these tips when it comes to hand washing and buying the right products to prevent sickness?


The face masks that people have taken to wearing in Chicago and around the world, supposedly for the own protection against germs, is the number one COVID-19 myth for Dr. Mark Loafman at Cook County Health.

"The face mask is there-we use it for somebody who's actively secreting and infectious material to limit that spread because again, that is what is infectious" said Dr. Loafman. "We don't have any evidence-and we've never had evidence-that wearing one will protect people in the general public setting."

There are downsides to healthy people wearing masks. Experts say they can trap contaminated air and germs in the mask, to be constantly breathed in.

"It creates concern and anxiety and it doesn't help we don't recommend it," Loafman added. "None of us do it. We're not out running around with masks in public. We don't encourage anybody else to do and either."

This is how you can prevent the spread of COVID-19, and keep yourself healthy.


Finally, when it comes to testing for the virus, some questions whether everyone with a runny nose ought to be tested for COVID-19.

"From a personal level you don't need to be tested if the doctors don't think you need the test," said Dr. Shu-Yuan Xiao, a pathologist at University of Chicago Medicine.

"I can understand why people are confused by this because there are no clear guidelines on who should be tested," Dr. Xiao told the I-Team. "If people are not careful and if we just admit everyone who has a fever to the hospital, you overwhelm the facility of a hospital. Then we have a problem."