[COLUMN] COVID-19 misconceptions

MASKS and distancing do not work

While there were limited data early this year about the effectiveness of personal hygiene, frequent handwashing, and wearing a mask and social distancing when in public to avoid getting infected with the COVID-19 infection, today, 7 months later, after the pandemic started in Wuhan, China, evidence-based data have confirmed their effectiveness.

Behavioral modification, compliance, and vigilance can prevent getting this deadly infection, which has so far infected (as of August 3, 2020 GMT) almost 18.6 million (191,000 new one-day increase) and killed almost 700,000 in 213 countries around the world: USA, nearly 5 million cases (46,247 new one-day increase), with almost 160,000 deaths; Philippines, about 107,000 cases (3,226 new one-day increase), with about 2,200 deaths.

Warning on COVID-19 test results

Positive means the person is infected. However, there is about 3 percent false positive in some of the test kits on the market, meaning the result says positive but the person is actually not infected. On the other side of the coin, Johns Hopkins Medicine reported PCR-based tests have a false negative rate of about 20 percent, meaning 1 in 5 tests is false negative; the patient is actually infected but the test result says negative. Medical guidance is prudent in interpreting any medical test results.

Who should be tested

In an ideal situation, everyone should be tested. But this is impractical and expensive, and may be a waste of resources. Testing the entire population will tell us who were infected in the past, who are infected, and who are not. Those who obviously need to be tested are those individuals who do public service or who are in contact with a lot of people, like healthcare personnel, cashiers, food servers, stores and restaurant staff, airport personnel, travelers, teachers, public transportation drivers, etc., and those who may have been exposed to an infected patient, or suspected to have been so. Those who are on self-quarantine at home, and religious in wearing a mask and social distancing in public, and strict in their personal hygiene, are less likely to need the test. A common-sense approach is to wait for 14 days after being in public and in compliance with the COVID-19 guideline.

Someone infected in such a situation would show within two weeks or so.

Negative result confers no immunity

It is not uncommon to hear people being very eager to get COVID-19 test to “be sure” they test negative. For one thing, if after two weeks of self-quarantine at home, strictly following the guidelines, and no symptoms appear, chances are the test would be negative. But even if the test done were negative, if the person is thereafter exposed to an infected person and was so careless as to get infected, the next test would be positive! A negative test result on any day does not protect the person at all. The test is not a vaccine and does not confer immunity or lessen the chance of getting infected. It is merely a test.

This is the reason why getting a test without a medical justification is useless and a waste of money. A negative result today, could be positive in a few hours or days, if you let your guard down and disregard the COVID-19 guidelines, and get infected.

Post-COVID-19 immunity

Those who got infected and have recovered from COVID-19 have some degree of immunity. Whether it is enough to ward off future COVID-19, and for how long, are still in question. Time will tell as more patients recover around the globe. Reinfection among those who have recovered have been reported. So, those who have recovered should still follow the health guidelines.

5G causes COVID-19

5G radio waves (internet) do not cause COVID-19 as alleged in many social media postings. The opposite view that claims 5G waves provide protection against COVID-19 is equally false. And 5G cannot provide Viagra-power, either. There are so many fake news and misinformation on social media. Do not believe everything you read on social media. Get data from renowned medical centers. Do your own due diligence. Get the facts.

Lemon juice prevents COVID-19

False. Lemon juice, garlic, onion, pepper, broccoli, fruits, herbals, etc. cannot prevent COVID-19. Fruits and vegetables are good for our health, but they are not prophylactic or therapeutic for COVID -19. Drinking silver cannot prevent or cure COVID-19; it is a poison! Irresponsible people spreading baseless claims on social media are doing a great disservice to the world. Gullible readers could have a false sense of security and get infected because of their posts. There is no food or medication which has been found effective in preventing COVID-19. Only by following the COVID-19 guidelines strictly can we ward off this killer viral infection. By the way, cow urine, or any urine, or bodily secretions, cannot prevent or cure COVID-19 or cancer.

Mosquito bites transmit the virus

While mosquito bites can cause a number of illnesses, mosquitos are not carriers of the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes COVID-19. We, humans, are the carriers and transmitters of this virus and infect other people. This is why it is vital for everyone of us to strictly follow the COVID-19 guidelines, otherwise several millions of people might actually die from this pandemic while it also devastates our economy and family life – if we allow it to linger much longer by our careless behavior and non-compliance, which technically borders on manslaughter.

Vaccines a decade away

There are more than 150 COVID-19 vaccines being investigated around the world.

Normally, it takes about 10-15 years for vaccines to be ready for sale, but the mumps vaccine was the fastest one developed, in four years, in the 1960s. There are some on their Third Phase of trials, with 30,000 subjects, to make sure they are safe and effective. The Trump administration’s Operation Wrap Speed initiative pledged $10 billion to ramp up the vaccine development and deliver 300 million doses by January 2021. The WHO is also coordinating worldwide efforts to develop corona vaccines and aiming to deliver two billion doses by the end of 2021. Cautiously optimistic, it seems a COVID-19 vaccine could be available by the end of this year, or early next year. In the meantime, let’s do the next best thing: religiously follow the COVID-19 guidelines.

Behavior that kills is criminal negligence

Each of us has the obligation to protect ourselves, our family, and others, especially the high-risk elderly, from this killer SARS-CoV2 virus. Careless, irresponsible behavior that causes spread and deaths is technically criminal. Not wearing a mask in public in some countries, like India, is punishable for up to six months in prison. Qatar exacts a heavy fine on top of a 3-year jail term for the same offense. Non-compliance could spread the infection, kill people, and devastate society as a whole. Any action or behavior that contributes to injury and death is a crime, not much different from poisoning, stabbing, or shooting somebody.

Some European and Asian countries, unlike the U.S., have mandated the use of masks and social distancing. The U.S. has the highest number of cases (26 percent of global cases) and deaths (22 percent of global deaths). People who do what they want to do (even against health guidelines), demanding their civil rights, some protesting in public without masks and not doing social distancing, are contributing to the spikes in infection and deaths. How about the rights of the majority, especially the vulnerable and helpless seniors? Every life matters.

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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, a Health Advocate, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. Websites: philipSchua.com and FUN8888.com; Email: [email protected].

Dr. Philip S. Chua

Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States.

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