Information about coronavirus, now named COVID-19 abounds. This is because nothing was known in the beginning. Now, more information is released which conflicts with what was first issued. This makes sense as more information is gathered, the more is known. Sometimes, the direction of the information leads one way only to find it is different the next day. As more time passes, even more information will be released in this evolving situation. For today, let’s think about some of the information that surrounds this pandemic.
MYTH: I need lots and lots of toilet paper. FALSE, at least for now.
COVID-19 is a respiratory virus. Currently, it is known to live in your lungs, not your digestive system. If fact, it is thought that drinking may direct the virus to your stomach where it currently does not survive. This is farfetched but hydration does help your general health. COVID-19 flourishes when in your lungs.
The toilet paper myth probably started because people thought COVID-19 was a strain of the flu. Currently, COVID-19 is not classified as a seasonal flu. Eventually, it probably will be. There are some flu like symptoms such as fever, coughing, fatigue and muscle aches. COVID-19 is considered an ‘influenza like disease’ which means it has some characteristics like the flu but is actually even worse than the flu.
There is evidence that COVID-19 cells can be found in fecal material. Viruses enter the body and thrive in our cells. They use the reproductive structure of our own normal cells to replicate. Some COVID cells are expelled through the bowel. This is why individuals exposed to or who have COVID-19 are to have a bathroom dedicated to them. Currently, a few people who have COVID-19 have reported some diarrhea. This could be from the virus, from treatments or even just from body reaction. Diarrhea may or may not become one of the symptoms of COVID-19 as the virus evolves.
Other systems besides the digestive system may be affected by COVID-19. The nervous system is one that may be affected, most notably in taste and smell. Some people, but not all, report loss of taste and smell prior to other symptoms of COVID-19. This may be a key indicator of COVID-19 but why some have this loss, others do not. More study and information gathering may indicate loss of taste and/or smell is a sentinel indication that COVID-19 is developing. When treatments are available, this could be a sign to start before the detrimental symptoms appear.
We hear the stories of people who contract COVID-19 who must be hospitalized and are even admitted to the ICU. The reason is for ventilator use. However, this virus knows no bounds. It will move to other major organs as well. Kidney failure requiring dialysis, the heart and other major organs can be affected.
MYTH: Only people with risk factors get COVID-19. FALSE
This has been one of the hardest points of understanding about COVID-19. Anyone can get COVID-19. Anyone regardless of health status, age or race. Everyone has an equal opportunity to contract COVID-19. The risk factors are not who will contract the virus but are indicative of how ill you will become if you do get it. The risk factors that are released are age over 65, asthma or other lung conditions, HIV/AIDS, immunosuppression, diabetes, heart conditions, obesity, kidney disease with dialysis and liver disease. Pregnancy and smoking (both tobacco and inhalations) have recently been added to the risk factors list.
Many people thought this meant that you would contract COVID-19 only if you had these conditions but this is not true. Anyone can get the virus. Those with these conditions will probably have a more difficult course however, there are young people without risk factors who contract the virus and become critically ill and older people with multiple risk factors who survive it. Risk factors are a general rule but not an all or nothing rule.
MYTH: If I am exposed to someone who has COVID-19, I will absolutely get it. PROBABLY FALSE
If you are exposed to someone who has active symptoms of COVID-19, you are likely to contract it. However, you might not. Why some people get it and others do not is not clear. Certainly, you are at a higher risk if you are exposed directly to the virus. If you are exposed to someone who was exposed to someone, your risk is less. However, these risk odds have not been calculated because this virus is so new that no one has been able to track it through all the levels of contact. Tracking the virus will provide more information about who contracts COVID-19, illness severity and resolution.
Some people had the virus and did not even know they did. Symptoms can be like a bad cold. There are individuals who had COVID-19 prior to when it officially entered the country. Since no one was looking for it or really knew much about it, it went undetected. Testing is the definitive way to know if you have COVID-19 or not. Checking for antibodies in your blood will determine the likelihood that you had it and have some immunity to it.
Therefore, you need to be as cautious as possible to ensure that you do not get it. This can be accomplished by social distancing, sheltering in place and washing your hands for 20 seconds, frequently. Wipe surfaces. Wear a mask.
MYTH: COVID-19 can be transmitted through sweat. UNCLEAR
There is new evidence that COVID-19 might be spread by sweat or other body moisture. This is still under investigation and may or may not be true. It was thought to be the case in people who are working out or running. Now, there is a thought that it is not sweat but the deeper respiratory action during heavy activity that causes the virus to be expelled farther through heavy breathing. More information about this will become available as research evolves.
MYTH: If I contract COVID-19, I will die. FALSE
There are individuals with many of the risk factors that do have a significant course of COVID-19 resulting in death. There are people with the risk factors who survive. A man was featured on the news who is 104, had a hard case of COVID-19 and survived. The same story was presented about a woman who is 103. There are also, ‘healthy’ people with no risk factors who contract COVID-19 and die. Those who survive and those who do not currently does not follow any logic. It may never be an all or nothing situation. As the virus evolves and is studied, more information will become clear. What we do know is that treatments are being tried in many, many, many cases. These include drugs trials and plasma transfers from individuals who have survived COVID-19. Survivors of COVID-19 have antibodies in their plasma to fight it. In other words, great head way is being made.
MYTH: COVID-19 will ‘go away’. FALSE
Historically, viruses are not eradicated. They are still out there in the world, but people do not contract them because of vaccinations. The polio virus still exists. The small pox virus still exists. We do not get these diseases because most people have been vaccinated against them. Not everyone is, but if the majority of people are, a process called herd immunity occurs. If you think of a herd of people, if the vast majority are inoculated against something, those who are not will also not get the disease.
The lack of inoculation has been exemplified with the measles. So many people are choosing not to get measles vaccinations that it is becoming a health hazard again. The measles virus is still out in the world. People just were not contracting it because of the vaccination process. There are some people who are attempting to eradicate some viruses from our planet such as polio virus and others. One of these people is Bill Gates. One of my personal heroes working toward improving the health of the world.
As this is a new or novel virus, there is not much known about it. We are all learning together. The important thing to remember is that the public is doing their duty of staying in, washing hands, wearing masks. This is helping to ‘flatten the curve’ which means less cases all at once. Less cases allows for hospital beds for those who are ill and the fabulous health care professionals to be able to care for those who do contract COVID-19. Flattening the curve can lead to more survival. We can do this. Nurse Linda
MYTH: Young people especially babies and children are immune to COVID-19. FALSE
Everyone has equal opportunity to contract the virus. Much as in the answer above, there does seem to be less numbers in children but as the virus evolves and mutates, this could change. Children and even infants have contracted COVID-19. Why it has been less in children is currently unknown. Perhaps it could be because they interact with less large numbers of people or they have already had other COVID viruses for which they have developed immunity. (Yes, there are other COVID viruses in the world that have not created such havoc.)
Viruses mutate to ensure their survival. This one has not mutated very much up to this point, but it is important to remember, it hasn’t needed to mutate. It is free to travel throughout the world without treatment or vaccination. It will mutate once some constraints are in place. It is always important to protect our children. Nurse Linda
Linda Schultz, Ph.D., CRRN, a leader and provider of rehabilitation nursing for over 30 years, and a friend of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation for close to two decades. Within our online community, she writes about and answers your SCI-related healthcare questions in ourHeath & Wellness discussion.