Facts: The coronavirus does affect younger people, can decrease lung capacity after recovery and is easily destroyed by soap

In a sea of misinformation, here are three truths about COVID-19

March 24, 2020
Category: Fact-Checking

A major challenge with the 2019 novel coronavirus is that because it is so new, there simply aren’t answers to many of the major questions people are asking. In the absence of knowledge, hoaxers are all too willing to fill the void.

The #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance has done over 1,000 fact-checks on this topic and has been busy fighting back against misinformation. So we know what’s false, but what’s actually true? Lost in all the noise of inaccuracies out there right now, here are some actual TRUE facts about COVID-19, so you can feel a little more secure about what is actually going on out there.

COVID-19 isn’t just dangerous for older people

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing 47% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations were for those aged 20 to 54. While the data does continue to show higher death rates in older patients, younger patients are just as likely to end up in the hospital.

It’s important to point out this data did not take into account people with underlying health conditions, so that could be a factor here. However, of the 2,449 cases the CDC looked at between Feb. 12 and Mar. 16, those aged 20 to 44 had the highest number of cases, with 705. The 45 to 54 and 55 to 64 age groups tied for the second most, with 429.

Washing your hands destroys the coronavirus’ outer layer

You’ve probably been bombarded with people telling you to wash your hands for 20 seconds. While that may seem like a long time, the reason it is recommended is because the coronavirus is made up of an outer layer of fat. Why are we talking about a virus’ fat? Because by washing your hands for 20-25 seconds, soap breaks down that fatty layer and stops you from getting infected.

Think of it this way: After you just finish cooking or doing dishes or applying lotion, your hands often have a glossy, fatty or greasy layer on them. When you wash your hands for 20 seconds, those fats get broken down by the soap, and washed down the sink. The outer layer of the coronavirus’ structure is roughly similar.

You could have COVID-19 on your hands right now, and provided you haven’t touched your face yet, could stop yourself from getting the virus simply by washing your hands.

Some recovered COVID-19 patients are seeing reduced lung capacity

Preliminary data out of Hong Kong is showing people who recover from COVID-19 may see decreased lung functioning. This was done on a limited sample, but the people studied showed approximately a 20-30% decrease in capacity.

It’s too early to know if this is permanent damage, but doctors in Hong Kong suggest this trend can be reversed over time through cardiovascular exercise such as swimming. Think of it like a COVID-19 rehab.

Harrison Mantas is a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network covering the wide world of misinformation. Reach him at hmantas@poynter.org or on Twitter at @HarrisonMantas. 

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