Misleading and Dangerous Information During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Because COVID-19 had never before infected humans, much remains unknown about this potentially deadly virus, including means of prevention and treatment.
Unfortunately, this knowledge vacuum has allowed a great deal of disinformation – including conspiracy theories, rumors, and myths — to circulate on the airwaves and through social media, including many dangerous falsehoods that could actually worsen this unprecedented public health crisis.
Misusing Bleach or Disinfectant Can Prevent or Cure COVID-19
Using Bleach and other disinfectant Against the Coronavirus
Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a new warning after a survey of 500 people suggested 1 in 3 adults had misused bleach and other disinfectants in an attempt to prevent coronavirus. These practices included using the toxic products to “wash” fruits and vegetables, applying household cleaning and disinfectant products to bare skin, and inhaling, gargling, or ingesting cleaners and disinfectants.
Bleach and disinfectants can kill the coronavirus on hard surfaces. But according to the CDC, people who ingest these products or apply them to the skin are risking severe tissue damage and corrosive injury. Those practices should be strictly avoided.
So, where did this potentially deadly bit of misinformation originate? Unfortunately, this myth came straight from the top – out of the White House.
“The disinfectant knocks it out in a minute. One minute,” said President Trump during an April 23rd coronavirus briefing. “Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside?” He added it would be “almost a cleaning. It gets in the lungs and does a tremendous number on the lungs.”
The President never directly suggested anyone should ingest bleach or disinfectant, rub the products on their skin, or use household cleaners on fruits and vegetables. But from a recent survey far too many people might have made that connection.
Hydroxychloroquine Can Prevent or Cure Coronavirus
Early on, anecdotal reports suggested malaria drugs called hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine could be helpful in treating COVID-19. However, a recent study involving more than 90,000 patients across all six continents showed that the medications do nothing against COVID-19 and can even heart problems and other serious side effects.
President Trump early on suggested the drugs may be a “gamechanger” in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Later, the President even announced that he was taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent infection.
In March, an Arizona man died after he and his wife ingested a form of chloroquine used to clean fish tanks in a bid to avoid catching COVID-19. The man’s wife later told NBC News that they had learned of chloroquine’s connection to coronavirus during one of President’s news conferences. The couple ingested the chemical because they “were afraid of getting sick,” she said.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration revoked its Emergency Use Authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in mid-June, stating that the “known and potential benefits”, “no longer outweigh” the risks, including “serious cardiac adverse events and other potentially serious side effects.”
Masks are Useless Against the Novel Coronavirus
As much of the nation reopens, Americans are advised to wear cloth masks or other face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. That advice contradicts recommendations originally made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Surgeon General, and other public health officials early in the outbreak when they pleaded with the public to reserve N95 and surgical masks for healthcare providers.
But since then, research published in The Lancet and elsewhere suggested widespread use of cloth facemasks could reduce the spread of COVID-19 by as much as 80%. Now, many local governments around the country have instituted mandates requiring the public to don a cloth face mask whenever they’re out and about. Dr. Fauci, the Surgeon General, and the CDC have also altered their advice and now strongly recommend the use of cloth face coverings.
Many people are understandably confused. And it hasn’t helped that masks have become a flashpoint and politically polarizing in many parts of the United States. President Trump early on refused to wear them – even when touring a factory that makes medical supplies – and has called masks overrated. Some social media postings have also asserted that wearing facemasks for hours can cause hypercapnia (carbon dioxide poisoning) or hypoxia (lack of adequate oxygen).
The fact is, the novel coronavirus spreads through respiratory droplets released when a person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or yells. Covering your nose and mouth, whether it’s with a surgical mask or homemade cloth mask, is an effective way of containing those droplets and protecting others.
While N95 masks are tightly fitting and may inhibit breathing if worn for long periods, the cloth masks recommended for the general public are porous. They allow air to flow in and out while blocking only infectious respiratory droplets, making it highly unlikely that a fabric mask would cause either hypercapnia or hypoxia.
The CDC does advise, however, against placing cloth face coverings on children younger than 2, those who have trouble breathing, or anyone unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without help.
Garlic Can Cure COVID-19
This ridiculous coronavirus myth first popped up on an anonymous Twitter feed out of the Philippines last January.
Garlic is a popular remedy for boosting the immune system, and some very preliminary research has suggested it may possess some germ-fighting properties. One study involving chicken embryos even indicated garlic might have an inhibitory effect on another type of coronavirus. But so far, there’s nothing to suggest that garlic has any impact on the novel coronavirus responsible for the worldwide pandemic.
Colloidal Silver Can Cure Coronavirus
Colloidal silver has long been touted as a cure for everything from bacterial infections to cancer. So, it was really no surprise when the sellers of colloidal silver started hyping its purported ability to cure COVID-19. Those snake oil salesmen included televangelist Jim Bakker, who began promoting colloidal silver as a coronavirus cure in February.
But according to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there’s no scientific evidence to support the use of colloidal silver for any disease or condition, including COVID-19. Colloidal silver is also associated with some serious side effects, including a condition called argyria, a permanent bluish-gray discoloration of the skins, nails, and gums.
On March 6, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission warned Bakker to stop representing his silver products as a treatment for COVID-19 on his show and website.
Miracle Mineral Solution Can Cure COVID-19
Miracle Mineral Solution and other sodium chlorite products have also been promoted as a cure-all for a variety of conditions, including cancer and autism. In January, a Tweet authored by Jordan Sather, a conspiracy theorist who blamed Bill Gates for the coronavirus pandemic, asserted Miracle Mineral Solution was also effective against the novel coronavirus.
But the FDA has been warning against the use of Miracle Mineral Solution and similar “cures” since 2010. There’s no scientific evidence supporting their use against any ailment, including COVID-19. And when mixed according to the package directions, Miracle Mineral Solution and similar sodium chlorite products actually become a potent chemical that’s used to make bleach.
Warm Weather and Sunlight will Kill Coronavirus
Not only has President Trump repeatedly asserted that the coronavirus would simply disappear with warm weather, but he also touted the purported benefits of ultraviolet light during the same briefing that featured his soliloquy on disinfectants and bleach.
A study out of Oxford University has shown that sunlight can rapidly kill COVID-19 on surfaces, but only tested dried virus on stainless steel. And while the novel coronavirus will die when exposed to 90°C of heat for 15 minutes, temperatures that high would also prove deadly to humans.
The fact is, COVID-19 is surging in Florida, Texas, and other hot weather states in the south. So far, those subtropical conditions have done nothing to slow the spread of coronavirus.
Young People and Children are Immune from the Coronavirus
In general, children and young people are far less likely to suffer serious coronavirus complications or die of COVID-19 compared to older adults, especially those over 65. Unfortunately, this has led many to mistakenly believe children and young people are immune to the virus entirely.
But according to the CDC, children and young people are every bit as likely to catch the novel coronavirus as anyone else. And while most won’t experience life-threatening complications, they’re undoubtedly capable of transmitting COVID-19 to older people or others most vulnerable to severe infection.
Finally, while their mortality rates are low compared to other groups, many children and teens who’ve contracted coronavirus have also developed an unusual inflammatory condition similar to toxic shock syndrome and/or Kawasaki disease.