As we all step into the next week of this movement control order, we Malaysians need to talk about something that’s been spreading even faster than COVID-19: the many, many coronavirus myths and fake news posts circulating on our social media feeds.
You might think it’s harmless, you might think it’s over-sensationalised. Heck, you might even think “better safe than sorry” as you click the share button. But fake news can have all-too-real effects, especially in our current situation.
Many people are understandably worried about the COVID-19 pandemic. They want to know what’s going to happen, whether the situation is improving, and when exactly they can leave their houses and go back to their normal lives. They’re looking for any hint of good news, any sign of a cure or vaccine that can end this COVID-19 situation sooner rather than later.
Just last week, Minister of Health Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba made an appearance on RTM’s Bicara Naratif programme where he claimed that drinking warm water could ‘flush’ the virus down into your stomach. His remarks have since gone viral, and many healthcare professionals have stepped up to question his advice.
“Even though warm temperature and warm water can kill viruses, you’d actually have to pump hot water into the lungs and this will flood the lungs and kill the patient before the virus dies!” pointed out former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, who released a Facebook post debunking this myth.
But while this particular myth has been thoroughly busted, there are many other COVID-19 “miracle cures” and “health advice” circulating on social media. I’m sure that at some point or another we’ve all opened up our Whatsapp and seen a message that makes us go “Wait, that doesn’t sound right…”
To help you sort out the real advice from all the garbage, we’ve put together a list of some common COVID-19 myths that you really should ignore.
Myth 1: COVID-19 Will Not Spread When The Weather is Hot
Answer: In case you haven’t noticed, Malaysia is, in fact, a hot and humid country. So the fact that we’ve currently got over a thousand cases of COVID-19 might just be a sign that this myth is a bust. In fact, COVID-19 has been spreading to countries all around the world, and people in both hot and humid and cold and snowy places have already been infected.
Myth 2: Eating Lots of Garlic Will Protect Your From COVID-19
Answer: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), even though garlic is “a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties”, there is currently no evidence that eating garlic can actually protect people from COVID-19. On the plus side, eating a lot of garlic will definitely help you practice social distancing because nobody will want to go near after smelling your breath!
Myth 3: Drinking Alcohol Can Kill the Virus Inside Your Body
Answer: To put it simply, no. If you drink alcohol, you’ll just get drunk. Another version of this myth involves spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body, which is also ineffective for killing any viruses that have already entered your body. While these chemicals can be used to disinfect surfaces, spraying them directly onto your body can be harmful to your clothes as well as sensitive areas such as your eyes or mouth.
Myth 4: Animals Like Dogs and Mosquitoes Can Spread COVID-19
Answer: As COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, it spreads primarily through infected individual’s coughing or sneezing. Though they can be responsible for diseases such as dengue, there is currently no proof that mosquitoes can spread COVID-19. The same thing goes for pets such as cats or dogs. Many well regarded human and animal health organizations such as the WHO and American Veterinary Medical Association have investigated this claim and found zero confirmed cases of pets becoming sick with COVID-19.
Myth 5: Taking Hot Baths Can Protect You From COVID-19
Answer: The theory behind this myth is that super hot water should be able to kill the virus. The problem is that it forgets that normal human body temperature is always around 36.5°C to 37°C regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. According to Professor Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, “to actively kill the virus you need temperatures of around 60 degrees“. Trying to bathe with such hot water is actually harmful as it can burn you.
Myth 6: Taking Antibiotics Can Protect Against COVID-19
Answer: COVID-19 is a virus, and antibiotics are only designed to work against bacteria. As of the time of publication, there are no specific medications recommended to prevent or treat COVID-19. However, those who have been infected should always seek out medical attention immediately rather than trying to self medicate in order to avoid tragic results like the man in Arizona who died after consuming chloroquine – a chemical normally used to clean fish tanks in aquariums.
Myth 7: Young People Don’t Need to Worry About COVID-19
Answer: While it’s true that older people are more vulnerable, they aren’t the only ones. People with pre-existing medical conditions like asthma and diabetes are also more likely to become severely ill if they get infected. According to the WHO, people of all ages – both young and old alike – need to take steps such as practicing good hygiene in order to avoid getting sick and infecting those around them.
Don’t Listen to Medical Myths
Medical myths aren’t exactly a new thing – we’ve all had to deal with friends or relatives who claim that diseases can be cured with traditional medicine or life hacks. In fact, in one of our previous articles, we’ve actually talked about a few simple yet useful old-school home remedies.
However, COVID-19 is an entirely new disease, one that no one is sure how to deal with yet. While laboratories around the world are working around the clock, as of today there are no available cures.
At a virtual news conference in Geneva, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO explained that while trials began “just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China”, it will take between 12 to 18 months for a safe and reliable vaccine to be developed for public use.
“To suppress and control epidemics, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace,” he said. “If they don’t, transmission chains can continue at a low level, then resurge once physical distancing measures are lifted.”
As such, you should not rely on home remedies or “miracle cures” touted by snake oil salesmen. During this time period the best thing we can all do is to heed the MCO, stay calm and #DudukDiRumah in order to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19.