India has confirmed nearly 40 cases of the novel coronavirus till now. What’s fuelling a wave of fear across the country, though, is the usual avalanche of fake news on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter.
So much so that prime minister Narendra Modi had to publicly appeal last weekend to stay away from rumours and follow doctors’ advice.
Quartz looked at some of the most widespread claims shared on social media and spoke to experts to verify them.
“The most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea,” explained Dr Basavaraj Kuntoji of Manipal Hospitals in Bengaluru. “These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually. Some people become infected but don’t develop any of these symptoms.”
Now, let’s talk about the rumours that are going viral.
Garlic/hot water are effective protectors: No.
While garlic possesses antimicrobial properties, there isn’t any scientific evidence to show that it prevents coronavirus. Same with hot water. “Our normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of the hot water intake, bath or shower,” Dr Kuntoji said.
Pneumonia vaccines/antibiotics help: No.
“Vaccines against pneumonia, such as pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine do not provide protection against the coronavirus,” said Dr Anup Dhir, senior consultant at Delhi-based Apollo Hospital.
Besides, antibiotics only work against bacterial infections.
Affects only older people, kids are immune: No.
Novel coronavirus can infect everyone, but the sick and elderly are more prone to developing complications due to their weaker immune systems.
Masks help: They are effective only when combined with frequent hand-cleaning with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water, doctors say. It must be noted that disposable face masks are not reusable.
Heat kills the virus: Nobody is sure of that.
“Coronavirus outbreak is largely reported from countries where the temperature is lower, but countries like India and Pakistan have also detected the Covid-19 cases,” said Dr Kuntoji. “Hence it is difficult to predict how this new virus is going to behave in the upcoming summer season in India.”
Can it be cured? “Most people (about 80%) recover or get cured without special treatment. Around one out of every six who contract Covid-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing,” Dr Kuntoji said. “Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are more likely to develop serious illnesses. People with fever, cough, and difficulty in breathing should seek medical attention immediately.”