The One Basic Fact Everyone Still Gets Wrong About Coronavirus

There's a big difference between bacteria and viruses.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, it seems there is one common enemy: germs. People are concerned about washing their hands, disinfecting surfaces, and avoiding germy places. However, there is one massive misconception about these microbes. The term "germs" is actually a catch-all word that refers to bacteria, viruses, and fungi, among other infectious agents. While bacteria and viruses are both types of germs, they are very different and often confused, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bacteria are microscopic, single-celled organisms that can be both good and bad for the body. For instance, humans have bacteria in the gut that help with digestion. Pathogenic bacteria, on the other hand, cause illnesses—such as how the bacteria E.coli can result in food poisoning. Another difference is that bacterial infections usually attack one specific part of the body (like your ear or urinary tract infections) and can be treated with antibiotics.

Meanwhile, viruses—including COVID-19—are parasitic and invade your cells to spread through your entire body. Those who become sick with the coronavirus tend to experience flu-like symptoms, which isn't surprising as the flu and common cold are also viruses. Because viruses are not bacterial, antibiotics have zero effect on them. This is why there's so much focus on finding a treatment and a vaccine for the coronavirus.

There are a few key ways to lower your risk of getting COVID-19—or any other virus, for that matter. Using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and washing your hands often is the number one rule. It's important to note that any regular bar of soap will do against the coronavirus. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "studies have not found any added health benefit from using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients when compared with plain soap."

However, if you're wiping down heavily touched objects and areas, it's best to use Clorox or a similar disinfectant. The CDC actually recommends using bleach, among other EPA-approved cleaning products, as it kills both bacteria and viruses. And for more essential COVID-19 information, check out the 25 Coronavirus Facts You Should Know by Now.