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WKYT Investigates | Combating common coronavirus myths

As doctors learn about this unprecedented virus, so do we.
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 10:50 AM EDT
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Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a five-part series targeting misinformation on social media: Why do we fall for it? What’s the truth behind the lies? And how can we figure out for ourselves what’s fact and what’s fiction?

Part 2: Combating common coronavirus myths

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Technology is the reason we’re able to watch doctors and disease experts fight COVID-19 in real-time.

As they’re learning about this unprecedented virus, so are we. We’re seeing their discoveries and their setbacks, and we’re inundated with a lot of theories that aren’t always reliable.

One of those theories - we’re only seeing more positive cases because more people are getting tested.

“We’re certainly seeing more positive cases because more people are getting tested, but that’s not the only reason why we’re seeing them,” notes infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Kathleen Winter. “Yes, there are lots of cases out there. Many of them are not that sick. Most people who do get this virus can recover at home. However, what is so unpredictable about this virus is that some people get so incredibly sick and do require weeks on a ventilator.”

Another theory being shared that Dr. Winter says can be misleading is that COVID is like the flu, and we don’t shut down when there’s a flu outbreak.

“With influenza, we have anti-viral therapy. We have vaccines that we know offer some protection. We really still don’t have much to use for this virus,” says Dr. Winter. “For a lot of people it is a similar type of illness with fever and cough and shortness of breath. But what is really different between flu and COVID is that we are still learning all of the ways that this virus impacts the body. So it doesn’t just present as a respiratory infection. It also presents in many ways with gastro-intestinal illness and neuro-invasive disease, and now with children we know that there’s this inflammatory syndrome that can happen after infection.”

You might also see theories on social media claiming all deaths are now labeled COVID-deaths. As with flu-related deaths, Dr. Winter says there are committees that review each to determine if COVID can be considered a contributing factor.

One other theory we’re seeing circulate on social media is that Kentucky’s hospitals aren’t full, so we shouldn’t worry about the virus overwhelming our healthcare system.

“Any time you’ve got one case, they can spread to many others, and they might not be mild. So even the person who is not very sick, they potentially can spread that same virus that can be devastating to someone else,” says Dr. Winter.

Check out the rest of WKYT Investigates: The Misinformation Pandemic.

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