Covid-19 has taken the world by storm, with the number of myths surrounding it spreading as fast as the number of cases itself. These myths are becoming major obstacles to efforts to contain the disease. Here are six myths that the World Health Organisation (WHO) wants you to be careful about.
Myth 1: Drinking alcohol can cure Covid-19
It is unclear where this myth that drinking alcohol can cure Covid-19 started from but, sadly, it is been promoted by even a senior government official in Kenya. Governor of the Kenyan capital Nairobi Mike Sonko added alcoholic beverage, Hennessy, to relief packages distributed to vulnerable residents when the city was placed under lockdown. He claimed that alcohol is a “throat sanitiser” that can protect people from the virus.
“I think from the research conducted by the World Health Organisation and various organisations, it has been believed that alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus,” the governor claimed in a video that has gone viral on social media.
The WHO, in a fact sheet published on its website, says the claim is a myth. “Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus, and its consumption is likely to increase the health risks if a person becomes infected with the virus. Alcohol (at a concentration of at least 60% by volume) works as a disinfectant on your skin, but it has no such effect within your system when ingested.
“Consumption of alcohol will not kill the virus in the inhaled air; it will not disinfect your mouth and throat; and it will not give you any kind of protection against Covid-19. Alcohol has a deleterious effect on your immune system and will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance,” the fact sheet added.
Myth 2: Coronavirus cannot spread in hot climates
The myth that the new coronavirus cannot spread in hot and humid areas is popular in Africa. Many say the fact that despite the continent’s weak health infrastructural systems, only about 1% of the world’s total coronavirus cases have been recorded in Africa so far, is evidence this claim could be true.
In February 2020, when Covid-19 had not yet become a pandemic, the popular Pennsylvania-based weather forecasting firm AccuWeather reported Clinical Professor in Pathology at the University of Hong Kong Prof. John Nicholls, who has spent 25 years studying coronavirus, as saying; “The virus can remain intact at 4 degrees (39 degrees Fahrenheit) or 10 degrees (50 degrees Fahrenheit) for a longer period of time… But at 30 degrees (86 degrees Fahrenheit), then you get inactivation. And high humidity – the virus doesn’t like it either.”
But the WHO is emphatic on its myth busters’ page that “from the evidence so far, the Covid-19 virus can be transmitted in all areas, including areas with hot and humid weather. Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25 degrees Celsius does not prevent the coronavirus disease. You can catch Covid-19 no matter how sunny or hot the weather is. Countries with hot weather have reported cases of COVID-19,” the WHO noted.
The WHO further notes that there is no reason to believe that cold weather or snow can kill the new coronavirus, either.
Myth 3: Coronavirus kills only elderly people
There is evidence to suggest that elderly people and those with underlining health conditions are more likely to succumb to the disease. That is why when the disease started spreading, efforts to control it including stay at home campaigns were targeted at the elderly, fueling speculation that the virus mainly affects older people.
But, as the WHO has been advising, “people of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus although older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease), appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.”
Myth 4: Eating garlic and pepper can protect you from Coronavirus
It is true that eating healthy foods which boost your immune system can help your body better fight diseases. But the WHO has found it necessary to caution specifically that eating garlic and pepper cannot protect you from the coronavirus disease after videos went viral on social media of self-acclaimed preventive health practitioners touting them as cure.
“Hot peppers in your food, though very tasty, cannot prevent or cure Covid-19,” the WHO added on its myth busters page. “Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.”
Myth 5: Ability to hold your breath is evidence of being coronavirus free
With tests kits running out all over the world, people are finding ingenious ways of trying to test themselves for coronavirus. The WHO particularly cautions against another common myth that has been spreading on social media about holding your breath being evidence of one’s coronavirus-free status.
“Being able to hold your breath for 10 seconds or more without coughing or feeling discomfort does not mean you are free from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) or any other lung disease. The best way to confirm if you have the virus producing Covid-19 disease is with a laboratory test. You cannot confirm it with this breathing exercise, which can even be dangerous,” the organisation adds on its myth busters page.
Myth 6: Coronavirus can be spread through mosquito bite
The fake news that coronavirus can be spread through mosquito bite obviously got people in Africa apprehensive when it first emerged on social media. Africa is home to malaria, the most common disease transmitted through mosquito bites, with the continent recording more than 90% of the world’s malaria cases.
But, as the WHO has said repeatedly, “to date there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose. Similarly, there is no evidence that houseflies can spread the Coronavirus either,” the WHO adds.
Beyond the myths
Beyond the myths, there are key points of advice the WHO gives.
According to the global health body, if you want to protect yourself against Covid-19, “regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others. Avoid going to crowded places. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene.
“Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority. Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as WHO or your local and national health authorities.”
By Joseph Opoku Gakpo