Garlic water won’t cure coronavirus, no matter what the internet says

Avoid online advice from dodgy sources, the situation is scary enough without fake news

The US FDA has moved to stop seven companies from promoting silver-based products with claims they can be used to treat Covid-19. Photograph: iStock

The US FDA has moved to stop seven companies from promoting silver-based products with claims they can be used to treat Covid-19. Photograph: iStock

 

The purveyors of snake oil and phony medical treatments are alive and well and making their latest buck on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hucksters of old showed up at country fairs or landed into small towns carrying bottles of a near magical substance that could cure fevers, colds, liver upsets, constipation and lumbago not to mention another dozen ailments.

A bit of clever sales patter helped convince the yokels of its supposed merits, helped along by testimonials delivered by strangers who coincidentally appeared at about the same time as the huckster and who had enjoyed wonderful results from the elixir. The patsies queued up to buy the potion and the huckster wasted little time in getting out of town as quickly as possible.

Run the clock forward and little has changed other than the potential to achieve the same results over the internet. Online you can meet your market, encourage them to suck up the “scientific studies” that prove the snake oil’s worth, add in a collection of testimonials from satisfied users and then rake in the cash – credit cards only thank you. The internet has proved itself to be an ideal location to display and sell worthless products and medical treatments that have no value and don’t deliver what they promise.

One product now doing the rounds is based on taking daily amounts of a liquid that contains tiny bits of silver metal. It was being talked up by a claimed natural health product expert on a TV programme earlier this month hosted by US televangelist Jim Bakker. The expert said the product could kill off viruses in as little as 12 hours, destroying a number of different coronavirus forms and for added good measure it could also kill viruses for Sars and HIV too.

She acknowledged, however, that while the silver product had been tested against various strains of coronavirus, its value had not yet been tested against Covid-19, the strain causing so much worry today. One might have thought that with a “cure” so readily available, scientists around the world would have rushed to do these tests, but surprisingly they have not.

For some reason, bodies such as the US National Institutes for Health and the Mayo Clinic are not convinced the product works. And the state of Missouri wasn’t impressed either and is taking a case against Bakker and his production company for promoting fake treatments, a state and federal offence, according to reports on US National Public Radio. And the US Food and Drug Administration has also moved to stop seven companies from promoting their silver-based products with claims they can be used to treat Covid-19.

The internet is awash with health and medical sites that offer supposed benefits without proof, and with promises that can’t be kept. Some are harmless enough, for example one that assures us that drinking “garlic water” made by boiling up cloves of garlic is a certain way to get rid of Covid-19.

Hoax

Medical claims being made without any way to validate them make the internet a dangerous place for those who are susceptible to a hoax.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end of those willing to be duped, and this can have damaging and sometimes life-threatening consequences. A case in point are the vaccination programmes being run by the Health Service Executive for the MMR and HPV vaccines. The reluctance of a few strident individuals to have their own children vaccinated has managed to raise doubts among many more parents who are genuinely fearful of the MMR and HPV jabs, based on unsubstantiated claims made by self-described, unqualified “experts”.

Low uptake of the MMR in recent years has left too many children exposed to the diseases the MMR protects against. The result is recurring outbreaks of measles in various parts of Ireland with the heightened risk of deafness and even death caused by these “harmless” childhood diseases.

Mumps is also now resurgent with outbreaks pushing up case numbers by the hundreds. The reluctance by some parents to give their children the MMR stems from fake research that suggested an associated risk of autism, a link that was never substantiated despite a decade of research. There is a more serious health risk if parents deny their young children access to the HPV vaccine however. This protects against the human papillomavirus, a virus known to be associated with the development of cervical cancer in females and neck and head cancers in males in later life.

Covid-19 is spreading through the population and the HSE is constantly warning people not to look for information from dodgy websites and to avoid rumours and incorrect claims. The HSE has the real story and hse.ie is the place for those looking for more information.

The World Health Organisation (who.int) is another source of accurate information about the international aspects of the Covid-19 outbreak. Its director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned about the hazards of myths and fake information being peddled over the internet. The actual situation is scary enough without blending in confusion and fake news.

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