COVID-19 Update #1 FAQs on Novel Coronavirus Protection – Common Misconceptions and True Facts

The coronavirus (COVID-19) that broke out in December 2019 has spread worldwide. While most governments around the world implemented strict control measures to limit the spreading to the general population, people are also actively seeking effective methods to protect themselves and their families from the virus infection. However, as misinformation is being churned out by the internet (“fake news”), it is important to distinguish the facts from the rumors so that the protection measures being taken are actually effective.

Misconception #1: Wearing a mask will 100% keep one safe from contracting the COVID-19 virus

There is no question that wearing a mask can greatly reduce the risk of viral infection, but masks generally have a time expiration for their effective use. Taking traditional surgical masks as an example, after being worn for more than 4 hours or after the mast becomes wet, the efficacy of protection is dramatically reduced, and one should not continue to wear it. Even N95 masks, which have considerably higher protective performance, should not be used continuously for more than 2 days. The life of a face mask is further compromised when used in haze or areas with poor air quality. Particles in polluted air can gradually block the fiber pores of the mask, causing the air to enter the nose from the gap between the mask and the face. As a result, the filtering effect of the mask is lost to a great extent. This situation also holds true for the coronavirus.

In addition, when removing a mask, one should avoid touching the outer layer, since this is where the virus may have accumulated. After removing the mask, wash hands immediately and dispose of the mask as hazardous waste after proper disinfection.

Because the coronavirus can be transmitted through the mucous membrane of the eye as well as the nose through hand contact, washing one’s hands regularly and keeping the environment disinfected are critically important measures to limit the spreading of the disease. If one only wears a mask and pays no attention to environmental disinfection, the virus can still infect humans through non-respiratory routes.

Misconception #2: Only N95 masks can provide effective protection against the COVID-19 virus

First, masks protect against droplets transmission, and the size of droplets containing viruses is generally 1 to 2 microns. For particles of this size, surgical masks can achieve a protection efficiency of 85-90%, which is sufficient for providing essential day-to-day protection. Admittedly, the efficiency of N95 masks is nearly 100%. However, considering the current tight supply of N95 masks, reasonable allocation is essential for directing limited resources to the right places.

Misconception #3: Avoiding the disease through active hand washing alone is effective

Today, most of the hand sanitizing products on the market are based on alcohol disinfection as their mechanism of action. Such products have high disinfection efficiency, fast action, and low price therefore they can be effective for certain situations like routine cleaning. However, due to the rapid vaporization of alcohol, the disinfection effect lasts for only about 15 seconds or until the skin dries. Coronavirus can attach to ones hands through contact with the door handles, bus armrests, or virtually any physical location that the virus attaches itself to, leading to a significantly increased infection risk. Therefore, short-acting hand disinfection provided by alcohol-based products cannot ensure effective protection that covers all aspects of day-to-day life. Long-acting products are needed to address this issue. A promising technology invented by a U.S. company can provide a long-lasting disinfection effect for up to 24 hours with a single wash, and the effect is well-maintained after up to 8 more washes. This kind of product, unlike existing mainstream products, is able to provide all-day protection that effectively cuts off the mucosal route of virus transmission.

Misconception #4: Environmental disinfection is effective as long as it is carried out on a regular basis

Environmental disinfection is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the virus, but it should be recognized that a single disinfection session is only effective for a limited time period. Besides, other inherent risk factors, such as the flow rate of people in the space, are also important factors to be considered. For example, the action of “84” disinfectant, a sodium hypochlorite-based product in China, or alcohol are short-lasting, surfaces in the environment will be re-contaminated shortly and become a favorable platform for virus transmission. Since most disinfectants have an irritating odor and are potentially harmful to the human body, they are only used when a space is unoccupied. In other words, these products cannot provide effective protection for occupied spaces. For example, an office that is disinfected after work hours will be just as susceptible to virus spread when it is populated by staff the very next day. If a carrier enters the space, the virus can easily spread into the public area and transmit to other people. Therefore, when selecting environmental disinfectants, especially for spaces where people frequently enter and exit, it is important to choose long-acting products. The environmental disinfectant offered by a U.S. company can be effective for up to 90 days, thereby addressing the disadvantage of existing products and offering a superior solution for highly-susceptible environments like hospitals, restaurants, and shopping malls.

Misconception #5: Taking health and nutritional supplements are effective for virus protection

Before vaccines were invented, the best ways to combat virus infection were to cut off the route of transmission and enhance the strength of one’s own immunity. Health and nutritional supplements do no more than what their names suggest - to supply certain nutrients. Most of these nutrients can be obtained through a healthy diet, while excessive ingestion can actually be harmful to the human body. The supplement of extra nutrients, in most scenarios, has a minimal effect on antiviral capabilities.

Besides, drugs such as Shuang Huang Lian, an oral remedy based on fictional humoral theories, pre-modern Chinese medical theories, and herbology, are not supported by conclusive scientific and clinical data, and thus should not be recommended to the general public for use against coronavirus. The drug was advised by prominent Chinese media and soon sold out across the country. This incident was criticized for causing confusion and panic in the public and undermining the efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. During the epidemic, maintaining a normal lifestyle and a healthy diet is the most effective means of maintaining health and immunity.

Although vaccines and effective antiviral drugs against the COVID-19 virus are still being developed, most patients are still curable due to the strength of the human immune system and the advancement in supportive therapy and monitoring. In an epidemic situation (like we have presently), taking proper protection measures, maintaining good health, and seeking timely medical treatment if needed, can minimize the impact of the virus outbreak. We invite our readers to follow our series coverage on the COVID-19 virus, and we will continue to bring you the latest progress in combating the epidemic.