WATCH — Busting myths about the coronavirus

Matthew Yu
Story by Matthew Yu • CBC Kids News • Published 2020-02-06 18:46
UPDATE: Since this article originally published on Feb. 6, a few things have changed. As of March 19, fist bumps are no longer acceptable and all Canadians are being asked to practice social distancing. Also, the idea of visiting busy neighbourhoods or attending social gatherings is being discouraged. Finally, some studies now suggest the virus can live on some surfaces for up to two days.Click here to learn more about social distancing!

Here’s why you don’t need to worry

It’s been less than two weeks since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Canada and at this point, the rumours seem to be circulating faster than the virus itself.

There’s all kinds of misinformation out there about where the virus came from, how dangerous it is and how you can catch it.

So how do you separate facts from fiction?

We asked B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, to help bust some of the myths that have surfaced around the coronavirus. 

Myth 1: Canadian kids should be worried

While the coronavirus is considered an emergency in some parts of China right now, Henry said there is no emergency in Canada.

“We have systems in place to be able to detect it, to be able to test people for it,” she said, adding that doctors have the ability to “safely care” for any Canadians who might get sick.

Sphere with triangles sticking out at regular intervals.

This illustration shows what the coronavirus might look like if you were able to zoom in really close. (Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC)

Myth 2: The virus started in a Chinese lab or restaurant 

The idea that the virus started when somebody spilled a test tube in a Chinese lab, or that it started in a Chinese restaurant, or that it was unleashed as a form of terrorism, are all rumours and not true, Henry said.

The truth is “much more mundane” or boring, she said.

The coronavirus probably came from animals sold in a seafood market in China, she said.

At some point, the virus developed a genetic mutation that allowed it to pass to humans.

Myth 3: You'll die if you get it

Most people who get infected have a “pretty mild illness,” Henry said, including a fever and cough. “It’s kind of like having a cold.”

A “small portion” of people get more seriously sick, Henry said. They may end up in hospital and even die.

But those patients have mostly been older people with weaker immune systems, she said.

Kids can keep their immune systems strong, Henry said, by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.

B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says it makes her ‘really sad’ that some kids think they need to avoid Chinese neighbourhoods. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Myth 4: I should avoid Chinese neighbourhoods 

No. Health officials are taking “all necessary precautions” to “ensure all our communities are safe,” Henry said.

That includes assessing anybody who may have come in contact with the coronavirus and isolating them, if necessary, she added.

The idea that fear is making some people afraid to interact with Chinese people “makes me feel really sad,” Henry said. It isn’t necessary.

Myth 5: I shouldn't order anything from China 

“There’s no evidence at all” that this virus can be transmitted on toys or electronics, Henry said.

The coronavirus can live outside of the body for maybe a couple of hours, she said. “But in a package that’s comes from China? No.”

man crouches wearing boxing attire and matching embossed mask

Influencers like Jake Paul have been posting images of themselves wearing masks. What they might not realize is that masks only make sense if you already have the coronavirus and are trying not to spread it around. (Jake Paul/Instagram)

Myth 6: Masks can protect you

It’s helpful for people who are already infected with the coronavirus to wear a mask, because it helps prevent the illness from spreading, Henry said.

But if you’re healthy, will it make a difference? “Probably not,” she said.

The best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face and covering your mouth when you cough, ideally with your elbow.

What can I do to avoid nightmares I might be having?

If you find yourself worrying about the coronavirus in the middle of the night, Henry said, take a deep breath and tell yourself to calm down.

Scientists around the world are working together to make sure “we’re prepared and ready” for whatever comes, she said.

That includes caring for patients and protecting those who are healthy.

Watch CBC Kids News contributor Matthew Yu get the facts straight from Dr. Bonnie Henry:

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About the Contributor

Matthew Yu
Matthew Yu
CBC Kids News Contributor
West Vancouver’s Matthew Yu loves a challenge. He competes in speech, debate and math competitions. He’s also a figure skater, competitive swimmer and he does karate. The 11-year-old even composes his own songs on the piano! Matthew is excited to bring his enthusiasm for learning to CBC Kids News.

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