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Coronavirus is not pneumonia – and symptoms of Covid-19 can be like common cold

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A recent Facebook post makes many claims about the new coronavirus causing the global Covid-19 pandemic. 

Some of the post’s claims are in line with official advice. But many are incorrect. 

Advice from experts is the best way to understand the coronavirus outbreak. And following expert advice is the best way to protect yourself from Covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

Africa Check has already debunked some of the false claims in the post, so here we’ll focus only on its most dangerous incorrect statements.

These are:

  • If you have a runny nose and phlegm, you have a common cold.

  • Coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough with no runny nose.

  • This new virus is not heat-resistant and will be killed by a temperature of just 26/27 degrees. It hates the sun.

Coronavirus is not pneumonia

The post, on the Facebook page United Kingdoms of Africa Association, confuses coronavirus with pneumonia. It first refers to “coronavirus pneumonia” and says later that coronavirus causes pneumonia.

There are many causes of pneumonia. And pneumonia isn’t the only symptom of Covid-19. Not all patients infected with the new coronavirus will develop pneumonia. 

Pneumonia, according to the UK’s National Health Service, is a swelling of tissue in one or both lungs. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists many causes of pneumonia. One of the less common is coronaviruses.

Coronaviruses are in fact a related group of many viruses that can cause mild to serious diseases.

“With the pneumonia comes high fever and difficulty in breathing,” the Facebook post says. The implication here is that these are symptoms of pneumonia. But they are actually two of the most common symptoms of Covid-19, and can occur in a patient who has the disease but hasn’t developed pneumonia.

What are the symptoms of Covid-19?

The post claims that “coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough with no runny nose.” It says the common cold, a less serious disease, is shown by “a runny nose and phlegm”.

But a runny nose and phlegm can be a symptom of Covid-19.  

Phlegm, or mucus, is a common symptom of pneumonia. People with pneumonia can have a dry or wet cough.

The World Health Organization says that people with Covid-19 may develop “nasal congestion” and a “runny nose”.

The most common symptoms of coronavirus infection are fever, cough and shortness of breath. But a person with Covid-19 may have a runny nose. Whether you have a runny nose or not, you should still be tested for the virus if you are also showing other signs of infection.

The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases advises that people be tested for the 2019 coronavirus only if they:

  • Have one of the main symptoms – cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fever

  • Have had possible contact with an infected person

  • Have developed severe pneumonia for unknown reasons

Feeling the heat

One common claim, which features prominently in this Facebook post, is that the new virus “is not heat-resistant and will be killed by a temperature of just 26/27 degrees. It hates the sun”. There is no evidence that this is true.

The Nigerian Center for Disease Control told Africa Check for a previous fact-check that the claim is “yet to be proven”. The WHO also stressed that the new coronavirus has been proven to be transmittable in hot weather and advised that hot baths will not kill the virus. 

The WHO have said “taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you”. Whatever the weather or temperature, the WHO instructs people to wash their hands frequently to minimise their risk of contracting the novel coronavirus.

Other misinformation

The Facebook post contains many other claims. Most of them, like myths about whether cold food and drinks should be avoided, have been covered by Africa Check. All our novel coronavirus and Covid-19 fact-checks are listed on the Africa Check website.

Sometimes false information is accompanied by some truth. But to be safe, only share information or take advice from recognised expert sources. The NCDC in Nigeria, the NICD in South Africa, and the WHO all have dedicated resources providing information on how to limit the likelihood of contracting the virus. 

These include regular hand-washing with soap and water, avoiding close contact with others who may have the virus, and practising good “respiratory hygiene” by coughing or sneezing into a tissue or a bent elbow.

If information has been shared by a source you don’t recognise, confirm it with a trustworthy source before following it, or sharing it. – Keegan Leech


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