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COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has spread worldwide since late 2019. Classified as a global pandemic, COVID-19 has caused millions of illnesses and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide.

Many questions remain about COVID-19, and people are unsure of what is true about the disease. Health officials are learning more each day to provide accurate information about COVID-19.

Based on information from the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are some COVID-19 myth-busting facts.

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COVID-19 Vs. the Flu

Myth: COVID-19 is the same as the flu.

Fact: Although both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are both respiratory illnesses, they have many differences.

They share some of the same symptoms, but symptoms usually appear more quickly with the flu than with COVID-19. And while the flu causes more illnesses and deaths annually than COVID-19 has, the fatality rate from COVID-19 is much higher.

One other key difference: There is a vaccine and specific medicines to treat the flu. There is currently no vaccine or medication for COVID-19. Learn more about how the flu and COVID-19 compare.

Who’s at Risk for COVID-19?

Myth: Only older adults should worry about COVID-19.

Fact: COVID-19 can affect people of any age.

It is true that older adults have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and of having more serious complications from it. However, people of all ages can get the disease. It’s important for everyone to use prevention tactics, including regular handwashing, covering coughs and sneezes, cleaning common surfaces, and social distancing.

Other at-risk groups include:

  • People with existing medical conditions like chronic lung disease, asthma, heart disease, liver disease, or renal failure
  • People who are immunocompromised due to factors like cancer treatment, HIV, transplants, and other causes

Those factors can put people of any age at risk.

COVID-19 and Vaccines

Myth: COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe and contain harmful ingredients.

Fact: There is no evidence of the vaccine containing harmful ingredients and it has followed safety protocols.

There are no harmful ingredients associated with the COVID-19 vaccines. Data surrounding the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines suggest they are safe, but they will continue to be monitored.

While COVID-19 vaccine development has operated on a faster timeline, manufacturers still must follow the usual process. That includes rigorous testing that measures safety and efficacy.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are reported to be at least 94% effective in preventing COVID-19 in humans, with no significant side effects. Before issuing an Emergency Use Authorization, the FDA weighs whether the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks — including the risk of waiting too long.

Those risks include thousands more infections and deaths from COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Facemasks

Myth: Wearing a facemask will prevent me from getting the coronavirus.

Fact: While you should wear a facemask in public, it doesn’t guarantee full protection against COVID-19.

The CDC recommends people wear a cloth face covering when in public, especially in potentially crowded areas like grocery stores or pharmacies. While this provides an extra layer of protection, it doesn’t guarantee prevention.

Most facemasks are loose-fitting and do not fully protect against the airborne droplets that can cause COVID-19. When wearing a face covering, you should still follow other prevention tactics like staying 6 feet away from others and practicing good hand hygiene.

People diagnosed with COVID-19 or with suspected cases should wear facemasks until isolated in a hospital or at home, the CDC says. Medical workers and others who are caring for people with COVID-19 also should wear them.

For more on COVID-19 and UPMC’s response, visit

Myth Busters . World Health Organization.

About Infectious Diseases

If you have a disease caused by bacteria, fungi, parasite, or virus, the UPMC Center for Care of Infectious Diseases can help. We have specialty units for prevention and treatment of HIV-AIDs, postsurgical and transplant infections, and illnesses caused by international travel. Our faculty research infectious diseases and participate in clinical trials to learn more and develop better treatment and prevention methods.