Everyone is closely watching and monitoring the novel COVID-19 outbreak.

However, keeping tabs on the latest developments in the ever-evolving battle to contain it can be quite unnerving. Every hour on the hour there’s an endless stream of breaking news about the virus’ impact in Canada , and across the globe. Health officials are routinely updating the public on new presumptive and confirmed cases; to date, the virus has infected more than 145,000 people worldwide and more than 5,400 have died.

Another complicating factor is the fact that there is no vaccine and there are no drugs to treat it.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that during pandemics, up to 15 to 35 percent of the population could become sick and be unable to go to school or work. This does not include those that may contract a specific virus and feel ill, but continue their usual activities.

The most important thing a person can do is focus on their own personal health, and what to do in case of suspected infection and how to protect themselves.

During previous outbreaks due to other coronavirus (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), human-to-human transmission occurred through droplets, contact and fomites, suggesting that the transmission mode of the 2019-nCoV can be similar. The basic principles to reduce the general risk of transmission of acute respiratory infections include the following:

• Avoiding close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections.

• Frequent hand-washing, especially after direct contact with ill people or their environment.

• Avoiding unprotected contact with farm or wild animals.

• People with symptoms of acute respiratory infection should practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or clothing, and wash hands).

• Within healthcare facilities, enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in hospitals, especially in emergency departments.

There is an over-abundance of information on COVID-19 – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.

In response to the spread of misinformation, the World Health Organization (WHO) put together a team to track myths and rumours about the virus and dispel them with facts.

Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, have also been aiding in the effort to contain the spread of inaccurate information by removing such content from their sites and promoting trustworthy sources.

Here is a roundup of some myths and facts about COVID-19.

Myth: The new coronavirus can be transmitted through products manufactured in China.

Facts: Even though the virus can linger on surfaces for a few hours after contact, the WHO said it’s “very unlikely” it will persist on that surface after being moved, shipped, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures.

For anyone concerned a surface has been contaminated, the health agency advises cleaning it with a disinfectant. If someone has already touched it before it’s been cleaned, they should immediately wash their hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or with soap and water.

Myth: Cold weather and snow can kill the new coronavirus.

Facts: The WHO said there’s no reason to believe that cold weather can kill the new coronavirus or other diseases, for that matter. The health agency said external temperatures or weather don’t change the human body’s normal temperature of around 36.5 to 37 C.

In addition to this, the WHO said taking a hot bath will also not prevent infection for the same reason.

Myth: Pets can spread the new coronavirus.

Facts: According to the WHO, there is still “no evidence” to suggest that companion animals and pets, such as dogs or cats, can be infected by the virus. Despite this, people should always wash their hands with soap after touching any pets because they could spread other bacteria, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Myth: Eating garlic will prevent infection.

Facts: While it may have some antimicrobial properties, the WHO said there is no evidence from the current COVID-19 outbreak to suggest that eating garlic will protect people from the virus.

Myth: Younger people are not susceptible to COVID-19.

Facts: Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, appear to be more vulnerable to illness caused by the new coronavirus, but the WHO said people of all ages can contract it.

The health agency recommends that people of all ages take precautionary measures, such as washing their hands.

Myth: Heat can kill the virus.

Facts: The WHO advises that heat sources, such as hand dryers, are not effective at killing the virus. Further to that, ultraviolet (UV) lamps should also not be used to sterilize hands or other areas of the body.

Myth: Wearing a mask will protect against infection.

Facts: The WHO only advises those with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly coughing, or those who will be in direct contact with someone who may have the virus to wear a mask.

What’s more, the health body said disposable face masks can only be used once and shouldn’t be worn over and over again. “If you are not ill or looking after someone who is ill then you are wasting a mask. There is a world-wide shortage of masks, so WHO urges people to use masks wisely,” the organization said on its website.

Once again, the WHO said the most effective ways for people to protect against the virus is frequent hand washing, covering their cough with the bend of the elbow or a tissue, and maintaining a distance of at least one metre from others who are coughing or sneezing.

Myth: Antibiotics can prevent and treat the new coronavirus.

Facts: According to the WHO, antibiotics do not work against viruses, such as COVID-19. They are only effective in working against bacteria and should not be used a means of prevention or treatment.

However, someone who is treated in hospital for COVID-19 may be given antibiotics because “bacterial co-infection” is a possibility, the health agency said.

with files from CBC, CTV