Coronavirus Myths – Fake or Fact

Unhealthy advice: don’t fall for fake news

At normal times, fake news is usually just an annoying distraction, although it can sometimes have serious consequences. But these aren’t normal times, and a lot of the fake health stories flying around the internet could be deadly, as desperate people go to extreme lengths for something that will prevent or cure COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Below, we’ve rounded up some of the coronavirus fake news that has been doing the rounds via email, WhatsApp or messageboards. Some of the messages can be very convincing, especially if someone you trust sends you something that they think is genuine.

No matter what you or your children read or hear, we would always recommend that you only listen to health advice about COVID-19 (or indeed any health matter) from reputable sources, such as these pages for the World Health Organization, the NHS and the Government:

WHO: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
UK Government: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

There are also plenty of excellent fact-checking organisations around now, and many are doing great work to try to keep up with the hundreds of coronavirus stories that are being passed around. Here a couple of the best:

https://fullfact.org/
https://www.snopes.com/

5G has caused the coronavirus pandemic

One of the most unusual but most widespread conspiracy theories about the new coronavirus is that the installation of 5G mobile phone masts is responsible for the pandemic. In the UK, Netherlands and other countries, 5G masts have been attacked or burnt down, and the conspiracy has been given some credibility by a few irresponsible newspapers. However, it is 100% impossible for radio waves to transmit a virus, and this conspiracy makes about as much sense as saying that the microwave in your kitchen can give you the flu. As 5G is a very new technology, it’s still only being used in certain cities in a few dozen countries, but the coronavirus has infected almost every country on Earth.

Flies can transmit the virus

Flies can carry lots of bacteria, fungi and parasites, so it’s a good idea to try to keep them out of your home, and especially away from your food, but so far there is no evidence at all that they can carry or pass on the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Shining UV lamps on your hands and skin can kill the virus

One theory that was even repeated by US President Donald Trump is that ultraviolet (UV) light can kill the virus. Although there is some truth to this, the type of UV light that can kill the virus, UVC, is spectacularly dangerous for the human body. UVC lights are used in places like hospitals to disinfect equipment, but all types of UV light can be harmful to the skin and eyes, and are the reason why we’re all told to wear suncream in the summer, to prevent UV light from giving us sunburn and cancer. Sunbeds use UV light, and health authorities warn that they increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Also, most UV lights that you can buy don’t produce UVC, so won’t kill the virus but will harm your health. The World Health Organization says that good old-fashioned soap and water are still the most effective way of killing the virus.

Putting hot peppers in soup is a cure

There are many people who say that chillis can cure a cold, although there’s no scientific evidence that this is true, and it’s the same for the new coronavirus. Hot peppers can help to clear mucus in your nose and help people with colds breathe more easily, but they aren’t a cure. Like all vegetables, chillis do have many beneficial substances in them and can liven up your food, but they can also make some health problems worse, particularly if you have a stomach condition such as acid reflux.

The doctor’s advice

One incredibly popular message that has been sent around in various forms via email, Facebook and WhatsApp, pretends to be advice from a “friend” or “relative” who works in a local hospital or has a master’s degree.

It says that you should take a deep breath and see if you can hold it for ten seconds, and that drinking lots of water helps to “wash” the virus down into your stomach, where it is killed. Everything in it is absolute rubbish and could lead people to think that they’ll be safe from the virus if they drink enough water and can hold their breath. If you get sent anything like this, please delete it and make sure that whoever sent you it doesn’t send it to anyone else.

Warm weather will kill the virus

Although some people have suggested this could happen and that the virus will be reduced during the summer, the truth is that experts still don’t know how it will react, as it’s so new and we know so little about it. Some warm countries in Asia and Africa are seeing deaths from the virus right now. Just because parts of the UK have had some sunny weather in recent days, it’s literally zero protection against this virus.

Children are immune from the virus

There is no truth to this at all.

Children do get it, although the good news for your children is that they don’t seem to be affected by the virus as much as older people. Most kids who get it don’t even get mild symptoms such as a headache, so they generally won’t even know that they have it. It’s not clear yet how much of a role kids have in spreading the virus, but they can definitely catch it. This is an especially dangerous one to pass round, as it could encourage families to let children see vulnerable grandparents, who are most at risk from COVID-19.

The miracle cure or protection from the virus

Fake.

There is absolutely nothing that can you eat or drink that will protect you from this coronavirus, so anyone telling you that garlic, vitamin C or anything else will magically save you is completely wrong. By all means, eat lots of fruit and veg so that you and your immune system are healthy, but it won’t help you in this case. There are also lots of incredibly dangerous posts going around suggesting that substances such as chlorine dioxide (found in bleach) are cures for COVID-19 and other illnesses, even cancer. We hope it goes without saying that eating or drinking any kind of chemical or medicine without consulting a doctor or pharmacist is a spectacularly bad idea, and that if it’s used in bleach, it’s not going to do your insides any good.

You can make hand sanitiser from vodka

No, you really can’t.  Health organisations say that hand sanitisers need to be 60% alcohol to be effective against the coronavirus, but most spirits are around 40%. Anyway, good old-fashioned soap and hot water are the best weapon against this virus, so you should only be using hand sanitisers anyway if you’re somewhere you can’t wash your hands.

 

Last updated: 4th June 2020, by Ian Eddy, First News

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