These are the major coronavirus myths debunked

Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 5:25 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th March 2020, 5:51 pm

People are not putting condoms on their fingers, and vitamin C is not a cure - just some of the wild claims being reported as the war against misinformation spirals around the Covid-19 outbreak.

Misinformation can cause genuine harm to people and communities, and has even forced social media platform Facebook to reevaluate its policies.

The idea that vitamin C is a cure for coronavirus is just one of many "claims" made in recent months. Garlic soup, whisky, and even drinking bleach, have all been referred to as "cures", too.

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Vitamin C is not a cure but it is being tested

Most misinformation shared online boasts treatments and remedies, despite any evidence supporting them. The majority of these claims are shared as badly made screenshots, memes, or copy and pasted information with no verification.

One of them came from a "university hospital in China", that claimed high doses of vitamin C can help patients with Covid-19. But, according to Todd Ellerin, MD at Harvard Health Publishing, there’s no evidence that “supplements, such as vitamin C, or probiotics will help speed recovery.”

Vitamin C is often hailed as a preventative measure for catching the common cold - but research says otherwise.

The statement has no verification from China's Xi'an Jiaton University Second Hospital, as claimed. The origin of the Covid-19 vitamin C connection actually came from a editor from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, called Andrew W Saul. Ortomolecular Medicine is an alternative therapy, unsupported by scientific evidence, much like homeopathy.

Vitamin C is being examined in China in case it does have Covid-19 fighting capabilities, but the results of the clinical trial won't be ready until September 2020. There is currently no known cure for coronavirus.

No one is putting condoms on their fingers

We all love a silly story, but some are dangerously spread in publications with extremely high readership. Many of these stories are written as fact, when the reality couldn't be further from the truth.

Reports that people were putting condoms on their hands to protect themselves from Covid-19 transmission are unfounded.

Initially started as a joke after photography from a shop in South Korea showed it had run out of condoms, the story grew legs and was picked up by UK tabloids. Durex's advertising people then jumped on the chance to join in, showing how the condoms could be useful to use in a lift in order to avoid contamination - again, as a joke.

This Durex meme has been reported as real news (Image: Durex)

It may not be the best idea to make your own hand sanitiser

Dr Jenna Macciochi, an immunologist based at Sussex University, said to HuffPo UK, "I wouldn’t try and make your own sanitiser at home. It’s not necessary for most people who have access to regular hand washing with soap and water, which is perfectly sufficient. [Homemade sanitiser] will most likely be less effective than ones that you can buy and have a known amount of alcohol in them."

Shop bought hand sanitiser contains moisturisers and skin care products which are dermatologically tested. Home made gels may not be safe for your skin, further impacting your health.

And your kids should stay in school - for now

Public Health England still advises that life should go on as normal. There is no need to remove children from school. School closures have occurred in some isolated cases but that is because a pupil or parent has contracted the virus.

Much like handshakes, life can go on as normal without major changes in behaviour - but this will only continue so long as people wash their hands thoroughly to stop the spread of the disease. School closures and limiting public contact are likely to occur if the disease spreads further.

The UK government today (10 Mar) announced that those with mild symptoms of a respiratory illness or fever may be asked to self-isolate for at least seven days if the rise in cases continues as expected. Elderly and more vulnerable members of society may also have to limit their public contact if cases get worse.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS