KAMPALA — It’s ten months since the world’s toughest pandemic, the novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was first reported in China. However, COVID-19 has impacted all spheres of life across the world yet, we still hear many people dismissing its very existence, especially in African countries including Uganda.
With over 10,590 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 97 deaths, and 6,992 recoveries as at 19th October 2020, in Uganda, myths about the virus are still widespread and are affecting the progress attained in the fight against COVID-19.
Globally, there are over 39.6 million confirmed cases and over 1.1 million deaths. The world has registered a death rate of 2.8% of all victims dying. The COVID-19 deaths do not respect age, sex, ethnicity, religious denomination, education level which is a true testament of how real the disease is.
The unfortunate part is that we continue to witness people including; some leaders confidently spread misconceptions and myths about the disease. Some are calling it a curse, a disease for non-Africans, or a punishment to the world among other things. Some of the myths that have stood out include;
COVID-19 is just like the common cold and therefore if Africans in the past healed of flu without need for medicine, then they are immune to the coronavirus. Whereas the disease presents comparable signs and symptoms to the common cold, it is more severe.
Since it is a new virus, it does not have any treatment or vaccine like the common cold and cough. This therefore means that when one gets COVID-19 they are at higher risk of dying from the disease complications.
Another myth is that only the elderly are prone to the disease. The current world and Ministry of Health data show that while older persons and people with underlying health conditions such as HIV, diabetes, asthma, TB are at higher risk, everyone including children can also contract and die of the coronavirus disease.
The use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is recommended as one of the key COVID-19 prevention measures. There is a misconception that alcohol-based hand sanitizers cause health problems when overly used. Hand sanitizers comprise of up to 60% alcohol concentration. This concentration means that they can kill the coronavirus if used appropriately, hence, provide much-needed protection.
Relatedly is the myth of consuming alcohol or herbs as a means of fighting and treating the coronavirus. As earlier on hinted, currently, there is no cure for the coronavirus and therefore taking alcohol or any herbs will not cure COVID-19. There is no scientifically proven cure to the disease yet. The medical prescriptions being used currently are only meant to manage the symptoms of COVID-19 among confirmed cases because they help strengthen the patient’s immune system.
Given the novelty of the disease, there has been an explosion of all sorts of information what the World Health Organization has termed as an infodemic. Different communication channels especially social media are awash with COVID-19 information. While some are authentic, there are also a lot of myths and misconceptions related to COVID-19.
As a community, we each have a responsibility to verify our COVID-19 information sources. Trust credible sources such as the Ministry of Health and World Health Organisation, to provide information on COVID-19.
Let us also remember that the power to end COVID-19 lies in our hands. Therefore, let us not tire practicing the key preventive measures including; regular hand washing with clean running water and soap or using a hand sanitizer; always wearing a clean mask properly (covering the mouth and nose) and keeping physical a distance of at least two meters among others.
This writer, Dr. Richard Kabanda, is Commissioner of Health promotion, Education, and Communication, Ministry of Health.