VANCOUVER -- The World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus a global health emergency on Thursday, but with the spread of the disease also comes growing concerns about rumours on social media.

The BC Centre for Disease Control posted a series of tweets on Thursday in hopes of clearing up some of the misinformation.

"There are several misconceptions on social media currently about how coronavirus is transmitted," the health agency said in its tweet. "Please allow us to clear it up."

How is the virus transmitted? How do people get sick?

The virus is transmitted through large droplets that fall quickly fall out of the air, which can happen after someone sneezes, the BCCDC said. The health agency said people need to inhale enough of the coronavirus so that it can bind to receptors deep inside a person's lungs.

"Coronavirus is not something that people can get from casual contact," they said. "A person must be in close contact (within two metres) with somebody to be able to inhale those droplets if a person coughs or sneezes without cover in front of them."

They also emphasized that this virus is not airborne.

Droplets can fall after someone sneezes, but the agency said the risk of transmission is low if someone were to touch them since the droplets would need to be "of significant quantity" to reach the receptors inside a person's lungs.

That's information that Dr. Bonnie Henry, chief provincial health officer for B.C., also stated in a news conference on Tuesday when the province's first presumptive, now confirmed, case of the virus was announced.

"Coronavirus in general are in larger droplets, so these are droplets that fall quickly out of the air. So you have to be in relatively close contact with somebody to be able to inhale those viruses if they cough or sneeze," she said. Henry said this new coronavirus is not as infectious as other viruses like influenza or measles and that it's not something that people can get from "casual contact."

"Coronavirus is not something that comes in through the skin. This virus is remitted through large droplets that are breathed into a person's lungs," said the BCCDC in its tweet.

Wearing a mask might give you a "false sense of security": BCCDC

The BCCDC said masks should be used by sick people to prevent transmitting their illness to other people and that they will help "keep a person's droplets in," but they might not be helpful for healthy individuals.

"It may be less effective to wear a mask in the community when a person is not sick themselves," the BCCDC said. "Masks may give a person a false sense of security and are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face—to adjust the mask, etc."

This echoes information delivered by Henry in a news conference on Tuesday, who said masks can be important in "certain situations," like healthcare workers wearing them when closely assessing patients or sick people wearing them to prevent the spread of droplets.

"The most important thing you can do in the community is wash your hands regularly," she said

How to protect yourself

The BCCDC said the "most important thing" anyone can do to protect themselves from getting coronavirus is to wash their hands regularly and avoid touching their face.

"Cover your mouth when you cough so you're not exposing other people. If you are sick yourself, stay away from others. Contact your health care provider ahead of time so you can be safely assessed," said the agency.

"If a person has touched something that has droplets on it with coronavirus in it, as long as they clean their hands before touching their face or your mouth, they are not at risk of getting that virus in their body."