Fake coronavirus claims are all over the internet. Below we correct a few claims about the virus origin, diagnosis, prevention and cures.
Source: Social media, internet conspiracy sites
If something sounds fake about COVID-19, it probably is
Fake Claim: “A simple self-check that we can do every morning. Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort stiffness or tightness, etc., it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicates no infection. In critical time, please self-check every morning in an environment with clean air.”
Fact Check: As news of the COVID-19 spreads, it’s natural for some people to worry that they may have already contracted the virus: the symptoms may mimic the seasonal flu or a bad cold. Unfortunately, the internet and social media are rife with inaccurate or false information on how to tell if you have COVID-19, the name for the disease caused by the new coronavirus discovered in China.
This “test” is useless. People can have coronavirus and be asymptomatic, and they can still “shed” the virus and infect others. The main coronavirus symptoms are fever, cough and shortness of breath: symptoms shared by other illnesses. The same social media post wrongly claims that a “wet” cough with sputum is a symptom of a common cold or another illness other than coronavirus.
Fake Claim: “Drinking warm water is effective for all viruses. Try not to drink liquids with ice.”
Fact Check: Another ridiculous claim on social media. There is no reason to believe that warm water can prevent one from getting coronavirus. The same post contains other ineffective advice, such as gargling with salt-water.
Actual, effective steps for preventing infection are to frequently wash hands for 20 seconds using soap, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol and to avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes to keep the virus out.
3. Origins of the virus
Fake Claim 1: On March 12, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lijian Zhao, tweeted that the “US army” may have “brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” where the pandemic first began. He provided no evidence for the theory.
The spokesman’s tweet came two days after U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien suggested that China “covered up” the COVID-19 outbreak. Indeed, Chinese authorities did take extensive measures to control information about the epidemic, prompting extraordinary defiance from ordinary Chinese.
Fake Claim 2: In late January, the popular Russian website MK.ru quoted Igor Nikulin, a Russian biochemical and military expert and former adviser to the United Nations commission on biological and chemical weapons. He said the coronavirus affects only ethnic Asians. Nikulin added: “This happened exactly when the Americans set the task to create a new generation of biological weapons that will be ethnically specific.”
More Fake Claims: Similarly, the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that “[t]he Chinese believe the coronavirus is created by the Americans,” that it was “genetically shaped” in “American laboratories,” and that all the victims of the infection were “Asians,” with “no Europeans” affected.
Other bogus theories: The virus is caused by new 5G cell phone technology, was smuggled out of Canada into China, is being spread in Chinese Red Bull and fortune cookies…
Fact Check: Although the science is still emerging, scientists have reported that the 2019-nCov virus is a combination of two coronaviruses, including one known to infect bats. They examined genetic sequences of the virus and found that snakes might be the source.
Fake Cures: Garlic, snake oil, silver solution, bleach, chlorine/alcohol spray, booze, silver toothpaste. And we could go on (see cow dung below).
Fact Check: People started stock-buying garlic globally after social media posts went viral claiming eating garlic and drinking garlic water or garlic solutions can cure from coronavirus.
The World Health Organization said: “Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from 2019-nCoV.”
Fake Claim: Cow urine and dung can cure from coronavirus
Fact Check: Gurus in India and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Suman Haripriya said that since coronavirus is an airborne disease, it can be cured by using ‘gaumutra’ (cow urine) and cow dung.
Haripriya was quoted in the The Wall Street Journal: “We all know that cow dung is very helpful. Likewise, when cow urine is sprayed, it purifies an area … I believe something similar could be done with ‘gaumutra’ and ‘gobar’ to cure coronavirus (disease).”
We shudder to say it, but there is no proof, and scientists warn that it is a dangerous message to promote because animal feces contain pathogens that are harmful to humans, including cryptosporidium and E. coli.