Coronavirus: Myths that have gained traction

Despite myriad online claims for this virus, there is no specific anti-viral treatment for it

Minister for Health Simon harris has visited Dublin Airport where he met with HSE staff providing information about the coronavirus to people as they arrive in Ireland. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

In the two months since a novel strain of coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, panic has spread throughout social media.

The World Health Organisation has expressed concern about an “infodemic”, warning that misinformation about the Sars-CoV-2 virus (which causes Covid-19 illness) is causing harmful stigmatisation and discrimination.

With a focus on doomsday scenarios, fake news has created false but believable memes to feed people’s understandable thirst for information. But despite social media giants attempting to tackle misinformation about the new virus, the spread of false news continues.

A 2018 Rand corporation survey found that of all categories of fake news, health news is the worst. Vaccines have been a particular target; now false news sources are blurring the line between opinion and fact about the new illness, Covid-19.

Here are some of the myths that have gained traction around Covid-19.

Myth: Getting coronavirus is a death sentence

Fact: The vast majority of cases are mild and self-limiting. The new bug has a mortality rate of about 2 per cent. Even those admitted to hospital with a severe illness are most likely to fully recover. Researchers tracking the disease report 17,000 recoveries from the illness. And if it had a high mortality rate, we would not be seeing the easy spread of Covid-19.

Myth: Wearing a face mask will protect you from it

Fact: Despite global panic buying there is no evidence that standard disposable surgical face masks offer protection against the virus. Because they are not custom-fit and are loose, these masks may allow tiny droplets from an infected person to get into the wearer’s nose, mouth or eyes. In addition, anyone with the virus on their hands who touches their face under a mask could become infected. However, people diagnosed with Sars-CoV-2 who wear these masks lessen their chance of infecting those around them.

Myth: A commercial hand sanitiser is the only way to kill it

Fact: While washing hands is the single most important action you can take to stop the spread of the virus, it must be done thoroughly. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, including between the fingers and the area around the base of the thumb. If using a sanitiser, for it to be effective, make sure it contains at least 60 per cent alcohol.

Myth: Cannabis and garlic protect against the virus

Fact: A YouTube video of a doctor discussing how cannabis can boost a person’s immunity to the coronavirus is a fake. Medical experts emphasise there is no evidence to suggest that cannabis improves immunity against the virus.

Online claims that Covid-19 can be cured overnight by drinking freshly boiled garlic water are untrue. There is no specific anti-viral treatment for it.

Myth: Closing borders and airports will stop the spread

Fact: Past experience suggests there is no benefit to measures such as these. If anything, they promote fear and panic. And they probably make it more likely that people with symptoms of Sars-CoV-2 won’t come forward and identify themselves to health professionals.

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