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The Truth - another COVID-19 Casualty
Author: BobR    Date: 04/01/2020 12:26:47

The saying goes that "the first casualty of war is the truth". This was true during WWI when it was first coined, and is true now in the battle against this deadly coronavirus. With social media democratizing access to "the press", anyone with an internet-accessible device and a keyboard can create or pass along information that seems "truthy", but is in fact incorrect.

One of the early ones was that ibuprofen was unsafe to use, as it could make one more susceptible to infection. It was all based on assumptions and misinterpretations of a study about ACE-inhibiters and ACE2 cells. The link is a good case study on how taking a small bit of info from a larger set can create a false narrative.

Another one is whether the virus can be (or is being) spread via gas pumps:
A March 17 Facebook post warned users to be careful when going to the gas station. The post, by user Brent McDonald, claimed gas pump handles are helping to spread coronavirus.

"I just spoke with a friend who got called into an emergency meeting at his hospital," McDonald wrote. "He said the virus is spreading quickly from gas pumps."

The Facebook post has roughly 310,000 shares along with nearly 4,000 comments and 4,000 likes.
[...]
Some versions of the post named local hospitals where the “emergency meeting” took place. One such message on WhatsApp attributed the claim to "Galway Hospital" in Ireland. "We’ve not issued any such advice," a spokesperson for Galway University Hospital told the Journal.ie on March 20.

This has the all the markings of apocryphal posts that claim "a friend of a friend" and name a specific place to add authenticity where none is warranted. Naturally, well-meaning people will pass it along, thinking they are helping friends avoid contracting COVID-19, when all they are doing is giving them more reason to worry.

The reality is that the disease is spread via the air. Surface contact "contamination" is WAY overblown, per this article, which points out the chasm of difference between "detectable" and "able to infect", re: surface contamination:
For more than a week, people have been sharing an eyebrow-raising report that the novel coronavirus can live for 24 hours on cardboard, and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

It can, but the details are more complicated, according to scientists who published the research behind those figures on Tuesday. The short version: Levels of the virus drop dramatically within a few hours, the authors wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The key is what scientists refer to as a virus' half-life, or rate of decay: how much time it takes for half the microbes in a given sample to die.

When the scientists placed virus-laden droplets on plastic, they found that half of the virus was gone after about seven hours. Half of what remained was gone after another seven hours, and so on. By the end of Day Two, there was less than 1/100 of the original amount, and after three days the remnants were barely detectable.

[...]

"The fact that you could identify a virus on a surface does not mean it is necessarily infectious," he said.
(bold-face mine)

Just like anything, we should seek out the complete information around a kernel of truth. Often, the big picture tells a different story. Keep an eye on fact-checking sites, including Snopes, before passing along something you assume is true. There's a lot of harmful and just plain wrong information out there.

 

15 comments (Latest Comment: 04/01/2020 15:13:45 by BobR)
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