The rapid spread of the coronavirus across the world is alarming scientists and the general public alike. The online and social media rumor mill is churning out false information about how people can protect themselves from the new virus just as fast. We take a look at some of the myths circulating online and set the record straight.
Can I catch the coronavirus from a letter or parcel sent from China?
While a lot of information about how the virus is spread is unknown, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that due to the poor survivability of the coronavirus on surfaces, there is a “very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks.” That means your Amazon purchase is most likely safe to accept when the delivery man comes calling at your door.
Will washing myself or putting bleach under my nose stop me getting the coronavirus?
Bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform can kill the 2019-nCoV on hard surfaces; however, they have little or no impact if you put them on your skin. Putting chemicals directly on your skin is extremely dangerous and can even be deadly.
Can my pet spread the new coronavirus?
The World Health Organization reports there is no evidence to suggest that household pets such as cats and dogs can be infected with the new coronavirus. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water after touching your beloved moggy or pooch will help stop the spread of bacteria that they commonly carry, such as E. coli and salmonella.
Researchers believe the new coronavirus originated from wildlife at a live animal market in Wuhan, China. Animals in general do not spread the virus.
Will pneumonia vaccines protect me against the new coronavirus?
The virus is so new and different that the new coronavirus needs its own vaccine. Pneumonia vaccines such as the pneumococcal and the Haemophilus influenza B (Hib) vaccine will not protect you against the coronavirus. Scientists are working on developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV as it is also known.
Will rinsing my nose with salt water stop me getting infected with the coronavirus?
Many social media posts claim a top Chinese respiratory expert told locals that using a saltwater solution to rinse their nostrils would prevent them becoming infected from the virus. The World Health Organization says there is no evidence to support claims a saline solution will “kill” the virus and protect you against 2019-nCoV.
Will gargling mouthwash protect me from getting infected with 2019-nCoV?
Gargling mouthwash will not protect you from the new coronavirus. Certain brands of mouthwash may eliminate particular microbes residing in your saliva for a few minutes, but, the WHO says, this does not protect you from the new coronavirus.
Will eating garlic stop me getting the new coronavirus?
This dubious claim has been spreading like wildfire across social media. While it’s possible garlic may have some antimicrobial properties, the WHO says there is no evidence to suggest from the current coronavirus outbreak that eating this kitchen cupboard staple will protect people from the virus.
Cracking down on false information
Social media giants Facebook and Twitter are working to remove posts containing misinformation about the virus.
At the end of January, Facebook announced it would delete all content containing false claims and misinformation about 2019-nCoV.
In a statement, Facebook also said it was targeting false claims that discourage treatment or taking precautions.
“This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available,” Kang-Xing Jun, Facebook’s head of heath, said.
Twitter reported 15 million coronavirus-related tweets last month and has subsequently suspended all auto-suggest search results that would be likely to produce untrustworthy content.
What symptoms will I have if I do have the coronavirus?
The coronavirus is transmitted via droplets when an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes. The incubation period for 2019-nCoV is 14 days, with people possibly able to infect others before symptoms appear.
How can I protect myself from getting infected?
The WHO advises people to follow the steps below to protect themselves against the new coronavirus and a range of other diseases.