White color does not have a ‘harmful effect’ on Coronavirus, as claimed in a widely shared Facebook post; nor does the color of a handkerchief have any effect on the virus, according to Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau. Also, there is no evidence that asafoetida, a plant often used in traditional Indian medicine, is a prevention or cure for Covid19. (1) These are just a few posts on-line that are spreading misinformation but the Internet is full of false stories about Covid-19.
Here are just a few popular social media posts that spread misinformation accross the Internet
- Posts on social media claimed that volcanic ash from the eruption of the Taal Volcano on January 12, 2020, in the Philippines was the cause of low infection rates in the country, stating that consuming Taal Volcano ash could kill the virus and had “anti-viral” and “disinfectant qualities”. (2)
- In China and Japan social media misinformation led to increased purchases of fruits, yogurts, and seasoned food, such as natto, a common fermented bean dish, driving up sales and triggering panic as supermarkets rushed to restock shelves. (3)
- Also, in China, rumors that foods such as garlic, onion, ginger, and chili were useful in preventing coronavirus infection were spreading as of early March. (3)
- Saltwater sprays were given at the door of the River of Grace Community Church in South Korea in the false belief that this would protect people from the virus; the same unsterilized spray bottle was used on everyone, and may have increased the risk. Subsequently, 46 devotees were infected with the virus.
- In the Middle East and North Africa consuming honey, herbal teas, and Vitamin C rich foods was a prevention encouraged by experts in herbal medicine. (3)
- In Iran, camel’s urine, milk with honey, and olive oil have been touted as cures. (3)
- The official Iranian news agency reported that more than 210 people died from drinking toxic alcohol after claims circulated online that it could treat or ward off COVID-19. (4)
- In India and Nepal, false claims circulated in various countries online that medicinal herbs such as wormwood, sagebrush, and tarragon, Agarwood and Neem leaves were effective. (3)
- An on-line merchant offered a product called a Corona Necklace Air Purifier. The product was described as providing “All Day Protection.” “Capturing pollutants 10X smaller than viruses”. The vendor has since been removed from the e-commerce platform.
- In South Korea, a company exaggerated claims that a car air purifier they produce destroyed 99 percent of bacteria, including COVID-19, despite the fact that the coronavirus is not a bacteria
- Another firm sold a line of deodorant with promised but unproven virus killing effects. (3)
- In France, cocaine and bleach-like solutions are risky fake cures shared thousands of times on Twitter. The French government tweeted in response, “No, cocaine does NOT protect against #COVID-19.” (5)
Lesson learned: Before you push that share button, be sure you are sharing facts from a reliable source!.
(1) AFP Sri Lanka, Dr. Ashan Pathirana of Sri Lanka’s Health Promotion Bureau: March 20 2020.
(2) Bangalore Mirror, Sept 02.2020
(3) The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Alaa Ghoneim, July 24, 2020
(4) Gulf News, Dona Cherian, March 26th 2020, and The Body.com, Michael Broder June 22nd 2020
(5) MSN.com Thomas Colson, March 9, 2020