In times of crisis, bad information can spread on social media like a wildfire.
The coronavirus’ spread is in full force in the US and around the world, with cases growing by the thousands each day. And with the frightening reality that 86% of those with the virus do not know that they are infected, many are turning to whatever measures they can to stop the pandemic from hitting themselves and their loved ones.
Although some have the best of intentions in combating the spread, others just want to sell you snake oil.
Here, we’ve rounded up the many myths (and some truths) that experts wish you’d stop sharing about the coronavirus.
Claim: Saltwater can “flush out” the virus
“Saltwater may make your sore throat feel better, but it won’t do anything to the virus,” Adam Berman, an ER doctor at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, tells The Post.
Claim: Ozone therapy cures the coronavirus
The non-FDA approved germicide, which uses the main component in smog to kill disease, is touted as a cheap cure for viruses including, more recently, the coronavirus. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Ozone purifiers create serious health risks — including lung and cellular damage — for humans and animals and have been banned in places such as California for this reason.
“It is one of the products where the risks heavily outweigh the benefits,” Jason Chan, an assistant professor in science education at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told Quartz.
Claim: People with certain blood types may be more susceptible to the disease
Researchers in China have found that people with blood type A have been both infected and killed by COVID-19 at “significantly” higher rates in Wuhan and Shenzhen, while people with type O had fewer infections and deaths. Still, researchers say there’s no need for people with type A to worry or for those with type O to rejoice. There’s much more research needed with a larger sample size before scientists can come to any definitive conclusions.
“If you are type A, there is no need to panic. It does not mean you will be infected [with a] 100 percent [likelihood],” Gao Ying Dai, a researcher in the city of Tianjin, told the South China Morning Post. “If you are type O, it does not mean you are absolutely safe, either. You still need to wash your hands and follow the guidelines issued by authorities.”
Claim: The coronavirus will go away in the summer when it’s warm
“Previous pandemics didn’t follow weather patterns,” wrote Faheem Younus, MD, chief of infectious diseases at the University of Maryland. “Plus as we enter summer, there will be winter in the Southern Hemisphere. Virus is global.” Officials say we could still be seeing the effects of this illness through July.
Claim: Holding your breath can prevent you from getting it
“The virus can still get into your respiratory tract even if you hold your breath,” Berman says. “Coronavirus gets into your body via droplets of humid air containing the virus as they exit other people’s lungs. The droplets are suspended in air for some time and can still enter your nose or mouth even if you are holding your breath.” So cover your mouth when you cough, even if you’re outside, he says.
Claim: The coronavirus lives in the throat. Drink lots of water so the virus is pushed into the stomach where the acid will kill it
By now, we’ve all seen the viral post shared unwittingly by celebs and well-meaning parents that claims drinking water can push the virus into your stomach where it will die. Unfortunately, it’s just not true.
“Virus may gain entry via throat but it penetrates into the host cells,” Younus wrote in a viral Twitter thread. “You can’t wash it away. Excessive water will make you run to the toilet.”
Claim: You can be infected for two weeks and not have symptoms
The incubation period for the coronavirus is two to 14 days after exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is why social distancing is so important to prevent the spread of the illness.
Claim: Sucking in hot air in a sauna or with a blow dryer can kill the virus
This is based on the idea that the virus lives in the throat, and it’s definitely not true, Berman says. “Hot air in a sauna or from a blow dryer can’t reach into cells where viruses sit and cause damage,” he says. “Plus, hot air or steam from a sauna can seriously burn you!”
Claim: The new coronavirus is an airborne disease
A new study by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has found that the new coronavirus can live in the air for several hours, although the scientists stress that this doesn’t yet prove that anyone has contracted the illness from breathing air. Still, the new finding has the World Health Organization considering new “airborne precautions” for medical workers.
“When you do an aerosol-generating procedure like in a medical care facility, you have the possibility to what we call aerosolize these particles, which means they can stay in the air a little bit longer,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, head of WHO’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit, said in a statement Monday.
Now, more than ever, people should be mindful of coughing into their elbow, even when outside, experts say.
Claim: Vitamins will give you immunity from the virus
Although there is a China-based clinical trial in the works to test the anti-viral impact of vitamin C, gobbling vitamin supplements won’t be the key to keeping the coronavirus at bay, Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with NYU Langone, recently told The Post.
Vitamin C therapy, she says, “doesn’t have any strong immune-supportive evidence,” according to current studies. She acknowledges that vitamin D “has been linked to good immune health,” along with heart, lung and metabolic health, but urged those who are concerned about their nutrient levels to consult their primary care doctor first.
“You don’t have to go and take megadoses of anything,” she says, adding that “a well-balanced diet” should be enough to maintain your nutrient quota.
Claim: The virus only affects old people
According to the WHO, people of all ages can be infected with COVID-19, although seniors and those with underlying conditions, such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, appear to be more affected. Still, people young and old have died from the disease.
Claim: The thermal scanners will catch everyone with the coronavirus
Thermal scanners at airports are effective at detecting people with a fever, WHO notes, but not everyone infected will have a fever. “It takes two to 10 days to develop a fever after being infected,” the organization said on its website.
Claim: Scientists have developed a rapid test that can detect the virus in a half-hour
University of Oxford scientists have developed a rapid test for the new coronavirus capable of showing results in just 30 minutes. Although the test has so far only been used in China, the university said, in a statement, that an “integrated device … [for] clinics, airports or even for home use” is on the way. Researchers also say the test is sensitive enough to detect the cases in the early stages of infection.
Claim: You can get COVID-19 from your pet
The first dog reported to have been infected with COVID-19 — a 17-year-old Pomeranian — has now died in Hong Kong after initially recovering from the disease, according to the South China Morning Post. The dog’s owner, a 60-year-old woman, also had the virus and has since recovered. But she probably gave it to her dog. It’s humans who might be the culprit, Stephen Morse, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, told Business Insider. “You’re more likely to give it to your pet than the other way around,” he said. Pomeranians, for what it’s worth, have an average life expectancy of 12 to 16 years.
Claim: Hand washing is better than hand sanitizer
The CDC recommends washing your hands rather than using hand sanitizer whenever possible because it also removes dirt and grime that pathogens can cling to. If soap and water are not an option, a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol should do the trick. Check out all the approved cleaners here.
Claim: The virus came from people drinking bat soup
While some health experts are saying the novel coronavirus may have originated in bats, it is still unclear how it spread to humans. Rumors of it spreading from “bat soup” are simply false, Syra Madad, senior director of New York City Health + Hospitals’ special pathogens program, told Business Insider.
“So there’s a couple of different speculations out there, but not from somebody obviously consuming bat soup,” Madad said. “But what we do know, obviously, is that once you actually get the coronavirus disease, the form of transmission is obviously through droplet spread.”
Claim: Drinking a bleach solution will cure the virus
Dangerous conspiracy theory groups have been touting drinking bleach-like concoctions such as the “Miracle Mineral Solution,” something that the real experts, such as the Food and Drug Administration, warn is not only false but incredibly dangerous. “Consumers should not use these products, and parents should not give these products to their children for any reason,” the FDA says on its website.
Claim: If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds without discomfort, you’re fine!
A viral post claiming that a good “test” was to hold your breath for 10 seconds is also wrong, of course. “Most young patients with coronavirus will be able to hold their breaths for much longer than 10 seconds,” Younus wrote on Twitter. “And many elderly without the virus won’t be able to do it.”
Claim: Wearing gloves can decrease your risk of catching the coronavirus
When worn properly in a medical setting, gloves can be an invaluable tool for preventing illness. While running errands to the grocery store and mindlessly taking them off and on, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. “While gloves can protect your hands from coming into contact with these droplets, they will still remain on the surface of the gloves and may even last there for longer if they are not washed frequently, leading to an increased risk of catching the virus by touching your face or food with your gloves, as well as the risk of passing it on to others,” Dr. Simran Deo, a London-based general practitioner told The Mirror.
“Gloves should not be treated as an alternative to good hygiene,” she adds.
–Additional reporting from Hannah Sparks
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