COVID-19: Watch Out for These Fake Cures
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COVID-19 only recently reached pandemic status, but it inspired an “infodemic” almost immediately. Conspiracy theories and misleading medical advice have followed the virus from China’s Wuhan province and contributed to both paranoia and sickness around the globe.
Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are working doubly hard. They not only need to distribute accurate information, but stem the spread of unhelpful and dangerous “medical advice.”
So far, they’ve found allies in social networks and eCommerce sites. Facebook has rewritten its policies to discourage misleading information related to COVID-19 and Amazon has reportedly removed more than one million fake cures and preventative resources from its marketplace.
Here are four of the most widely-distributed “cures.” Do not take any outlet that advises them seriously.
Garlic’s potential health benefits are widely-known. The pungent herb is trusted to help reduce cholesterol, improve blood flow, and discourage hardening of the arteries. It is not, however, effective for preventing COVID-19 infections. WHO acknowledges that garlic may have “some antimicrobial properties,” but has warned people against eating it to prevent or cure the virus. While garlic is fairly benign compared to other fake remedies, too much garlic can have a negative effect. The South China Morning Post reported that one woman experienced severe throat inflammation after ingesting more than three pounds of garlic over a two-week period.
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In mid-February, televangelist Jim Bakker and “natural health expert” Sherril Sellman advised listeners of The Jim Bakker Show that colloidal silver (tiny silver particles suspended in liquid) can cure certain strains of the coronavirus. Drinking Bakker’s Silver Solution is not merely ineffective, but potentially very dangerous. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) first warned consumers of colloidal silver’s potential side effects in 1999. More recently, the FDA issued warnings to Bakker and six other organizations demanding that they stop selling it. This week, the state of Missouri took additional action and filed a lawsuit against Bakker and Morningside Church Productions. Silver Solution is no longer available on Bakker’s website.
Alcohol-based cleaners are an effective way to eliminate COVID-19 particles on high-touch surfaces, but ingesting alcohol will not cure or prevent the virus. Iran (hit especially hard by COVID-19) recently saw 44 deaths resulting from alcohol poisoning. Drinking is prohibited in the country, but rumors have circulated that doing so will kill the virus. It is believed that the deceased individuals drank bootleg liquor produced with both bleach and methanol. Seven bootleggers have been arrested. Rumors have also suggested that spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body can cure COVID-19. This, too, is false.
While staying hydrated is always good medical advice, there is no evidence that drinking more water will have any effect on COVID-19. The BBC points to a widely-circulated Facebook post citing advice from a “Japanese doctor.” This doctor allegedly advised drinking water every 15 minutes to flush out the virus. One Arabic version of this post was shared more than 200,000 times. There is no medical evidence to suggest washing a virus into your stomach is possible or that stomach acid can kill COVID-19.
We don’t have a miracle cure for COVID-19 and we’re, at the very least, a year away from obtaining a vaccine. In the meantime, the WHO and the CDC advise seniors to take many of the same basic health and wellness precautions they would during cold and flu season. They encourage regular handwashing, social distancing, and good respiratory hygiene. Read our summary of these guidelines for more information.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, more fake news will certainly follow. Remain calm and take care to identify credible sources of information.