Fake News on Corona goes ‘Viral’

By Ashwin Tombat
22 March 2020 14:02 IST

The Covid-19 (corona virus) ‘pandemic’ – the World Health Organisation (WHO) notified it as such on Wednesday – has been accompanied by an even faster spreading ‘info-demic’. Fake information about corona becomes ‘viral’ through social media. India, with around 500 million smartphones, is the world’s biggest market for WhatsApp, with more than 400 million users. Some of the misinformation, ironically, came from Goa.

The Union Ministry of Ayush, led by Goa’s very own Sripad ‘Bhau’ Naik, claimed a homoeopathic medicine – Arsenic Album 30 – was a palliative for Covid-19. After fake-news-busting service Alt News debunked it as unscientific, an embarrassed Mr Naik said that the advisory only listed medicines that increase immunity, and never claimed they were cures.  

Goa Minister for Science and Technology Michael Lobo confidently told the media on Wednesday that the virus will not spread in a hot climate like Goa. He was completely wrong.

Some myths and facts:

Myth: Covid-19 (corona virus) can be cured. Homemade cures include alcohol, homeopathic medicines, cowdung and cow urine. Vaccines are ‘round the corner’.
Fact: There is no ‘cure’ for Covid-19. It will take six to 12 months before a vaccine to prevent it is made available. During the SARS epidemic in 2003, it took a year for a vaccine to be released. Biotech company Moderna says it has already created a vaccine, and clinical trials will start later this month.

Myth: Hand Sanitizers don't protect against Covid-19, because it is a virus and sanitizers are anti-bacterial.
Fact: A hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol should be used when there is no soap and water available to wash one’s hands.

Myth: Cold weather and snow can kill corona virus.
Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that cold weather can kill corona virus.

Myth: Hot weather will kill corona virus.
Fact: The corona virus can be transmitted in hot and humid climates, says WHO.

Myth: Taking a hot bath prevents Covid-19.
Fact: No. Body temperature remains around 36.5-37 degrees Celcius, regardless of the temperature of the bath water.

Myth: Hand dryers in public toilets can kill corona virus.
Fact: Hand dryers do not kill corona virus.

Myth: Ultraviolet disinfection lamps can kill corona virus.
Fact: UV radiation can cause skin irritation. UV lamps should not be used to sterilize hands or other parts of the body.  

Myth: Thermal scanners can detect corona virus.
Fact: Thermal scanners cannot detect people who are infected with Covid-19, but don’t have a fever, says WHO. It takes between two and 10 days before people who are infected develop a fever.

Myth: Pneumonia Vaccines can protect against Covid-19.
Fact: Pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine do not protect against corona virus, says WHO. Covid-19 needs its own vaccine, which is still being developed.

Myth: Covid-19 only affects the elderly.
Fact: People of all ages can be infected, but older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease) are more vulnerable to becoming severely ill.

Myth: Antibiotics can prevent and/or treat Covid-19.
Fact: Antibiotics work against bacteria, not viruses.

Covid-19 is a respiratory virus that spreads primarily through tiny droplets that fly when an infected person coughs or sneezes, through the saliva, or discharge from the nose.

A recent study by US researchers from Princeton University, the University of California and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, found that the virus could survive airborne for up to three hours; for up to four hours on copper surfaces, up to 24 hours on cardboard surfaces and two to three days on stainless steel, plastic and wood surfaces.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the most common spread of the virus is from direct person-to-person contact, but a person can also get Covid-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.

The most effective way to prevent Covid-19 is to avoid crowded places, where people can sneeze or cough on you, or touch you on your face or hands.

If you can’t avoid crowded places – like when travelling by bus, train or plane, or you are in an office – cover your nose and mouth with a clean handkerchief. Put the handkerchief to wash when you get home. If you want to use a mask, make sure you can use a fresh one every day, or that it can be washed with soap at the end of the day.  

Avoid touching railings, door knobs, pushing lift buttons, etc. If you can’t, use hand sanitizer after you do, Wash your hands thoroughly with soap – back and front, between the fingers and below the nails – s many times as possible during the day.

Finally, be considerate to others. If you have a cold or cough, use a handkerchief every time you sneeze or cough. If there is no time, sneeze or cough into your shirt sleeve, so the droplets do not fly on others.

First published in Lokmat (Marathi) Goa edition on Sunday 15 March 2020

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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