Parts of the press and social media are now focused almost exclusively on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, not all the information circulating online about the disease is correct. Actually, there are many outlets that seem to spread misinformation about it on purpose – some of them have the ulterior motive of trying to sell supplements and similar products (that are not effective at all against the virus) while others… just do.
The news might make some people feel like it’s almost apocalypse o’clock. And the panicky false claims circulating online just add fuel to the fire. So, let’s take a brief look at some of the biggest lies circulating online about the coronavirus epidemic today.
Rumors circulating online, backed by a video, claim that the novel coronavirus originated from a meat market in Wuhan selling everything from bats to rats and snakes for food. The video was shared more than 80,000 times on Facebook alone.
Unfortunately, it was fake. The video was later found to have not even been recorded in China (instead, it was captured in Indonesia’s North Sulawesi), and to have been posted online in the summer of 2019, long before the novel coronavirus emerged.
Scientists have, in turn, determined that COVID-19 has most likely developed in bats and “invaded” humans through a yet undetermined intermediate host (probably a domesticated animal).
There are many fingers pointing at each other claiming that the novel coronavirus was engineered in a lab for purposes ranging from population control to inducing global panic and a massive economic crisis. Some people even mention a study claiming that the virus was genetically engineered for an efficient spread in humans. This is, of course, a big fat lie – the study referred to has merely compared COVID-19 to its “cousins” (the viruses responsible for SARS and MERS) and pointed out a difference between them that makes this year’s coronavirus more efficient in infecting a human host.
Silver, bleach, and vitamin C
There are many things various online sources have claimed to kill the novel coronavirus – some of them innocent, like drinking water every 15 minutes or eating garlic, while others, outright life-threatening.
The two most dangerous claims involve a colloidal silver solution that supposedly kills some coronavirus strains within 12 hours but can cause kidney damage and seizures, and can turn one’s skin blue. The other – drinking bleach (sodium hypochlorite), a household disinfectant.
Bleach is great for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces… but it’s corrosive and toxic, and by no means meant to be consumed – ever.
The third fake claim is relatively harmless compared to the two above – that vitamin C could cure coronavirus infections. While it does help us maintain a good immune function, it’s not a miracle cure – a mega-dose of it will not cure the coronavirus infection, and there is no evidence that it can prevent infection either.
Fight fake news and false health claims
Fake news is dangerous in a normal situation, too – and even more so during the current pandemic. It is more important than ever to rely only on official news sources for updates about the situation and not give in to panicky, unsubstantiated claims and news about miracle cures. And especially not to believe conspiracy theories.
The key is not believing everything you read online. The key is continuous fact-checking. The key is only relying on information coming from official sources – health authorities, in our case. And no matter how sensational or appealing it may be, the key is not sharing shady social media updates and links online.