• By Deborah Balzer

COVID-19: More questions, more answers on myths and facts

March 27, 2020

News of the COVID-19 pandemic response dominates nearly every media platform, including some social media and internet sites where misinformation and myths are circulating. Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious diseases expert and director of Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group says it's important to get information from credible sources.

Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland talks COVID-19 facts and fiction.

Journalists: Sound bites with Dr. Gregory Poland are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy "Gregory Poland, M.D. / Vaccine Research Group / Mayo Clinic."

Fact or fiction? Dr. Poland explains in this Q&A:

Q. Can hand dryers kill COVID-19?

A. Avoid hand dryers. The reason for that is that they just increase the air circulation of the viruses as that air, either warm or not warm, is blowing against your hands. That's been well demonstrated with other viruses.

Q. Can spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body kill the COVID-19?

A. Don't do that. You don't want to use those solutions on your body. They are to be used on hard surfaces. For your body, use simple soap and water. The way that soap and water works is really important because it informs how you wash your hands. There are surface tension agents in soap, so it takes away the electrostatic attraction of the virus to your skin, it removes oils and mucous that may be on your body that the virus can live in, and you are by friction literally washing it away with water. And that turns out to be the most effective thing we know.

Q. Can regularly rinsing your nose with saline help prevent infection with COVID-19?

A. The nasal rinses have primarily been shown to be effective with sinusitis and with allergies. I don't know of any direct evidence for that with COVID-19.

Q. Can eating garlic help prevent infection with COVID-19?

A. Only insofar as it makes social distancing easier. There is no evidence that shows garlic protects people from the virus.

Q. Can you protect yourself by gargling bleach?

A. I know that on the internet people have talked about gargling bleach and also putting bleach on cotton plugs and putting it in the nose. That is an extraordinarily dangerous and unhelpful thing to do.

Q. Can antibiotics kill COVID-19?

A. No antibiotic can kill a virus. Antibiotics are only to be used when there is known, documented co-infection with bacteria.

Q. Rural communities don't need to worry, right?

A. Wrong. I think that is a very dangerous myth, as is the myth that younger people don't need to worry. This is a serious disease. Let me put it this way. Last week in the U.S., there were 18,000 cases. Today, there are over 85,000 known cases. There is no evidence that this is going to end soon. We are talking about taking these maneuvers for months ― plural ― not weeks. This is a very dangerous. It is rapidly evolving and a very dynamic situation. It is imperative that we decrease human-to-human transmission to flatten this curve so that the hospital and medical system is capable of responding and not overrun. In some of our larger cities, they are preparing tents, refrigerated trucks for the anticipated bodies.

Check the CDC website for additional updates on COVID-19. For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.

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