Almost all of these claims about viruses are wrong

24th Sep 2020

Claim

You cannot catch Covid-19 person to person or touching surfaces.

Conclusion

This is incorrect. There’s evidence that Covid-19 and other coronaviruses, like the common cold and SARS, spread in these ways.

 

Viruses are dead material expelled from healing cells.

 

It’s not clear what this claim means, but there is debate about whether or not viruses are technically alive. When viruses leave host cells after replicating in them, the cells can’t really be said to have healed.

 

Everyone has thousands of viruses inside their body.

 

This is true, although that doesn’t mean that Covid-19 is harmless.

Claim 1 of 3

A picture on Facebook claiming that Covid-19 can’t spread person to person or from touching surfaces is almost all incorrect.

It claims you can’t catch Covid-19 person to person, but you can. As with other coronaviruses, like the common cold and SARS, Covid-19 does spread through respiratory droplets from an infected person.

It also claims you can’t catch Covid-19 from touching surfaces, which is also false. Surfaces can be contaminated with the virus that causes Covid-19, and it can be transmitted when uninfected people touch these surfaces.

Just touching a surface that is contaminated with the virus is not enough to become infected—the virus enters the body through membranes present in the nose, mouth, or eyes, which we touch all the time without really noticing.

As for the other claims in this post, that “you’ve been lied to” because viruses are “dead material leaving healing cells” and that everyone has “thousands of viruses inside their body”, these are not all correct.

There’s some debate within the scientific community as to whether viruses are technically alive or not, as they rely on host cells to replicate. When viruses replicate in host cells, they take over the cell’s mechanics to reproduce, and then leave. The host cell can’t really be said to be healing when that happens, even though it may not have died. Some cells do respond to viral infection by dying.

And it’s true that the human body contains a number of viruses that don’t harm us, or protect against bacteria. Many of these are bacteriophages—a type of virus that infects bacteria. This is not the same as being infected with a virus that can cause a potentially dangerous disease, like Covid-19.