If you snort cocaine, you’re going to get super high; if you drink bleach, you’re going to get super sick — and if you do either of those things and come in contact with the novel coronavirus, you’re still likely to get COVID-19.
Health officials are trying to swat down some truly wild “tips” for avoiding the novel coronavirus on social media, where viral memes and conspiracy theorists are peddling all kinds of bogus “cures.”
One widely circulated rumour shows cocaine and a breaking news TV banner claiming that it protects against the virus.
“No, cocaine does NOT protect against COVID-19,” France’s health ministry tweeted on Sunday, in response to doctored memes suggesting otherwise. “It is an addictive drug that causes serious side effects and is harmful to people’s health.”
The false rumour appears to have been generated on a website that allows users to create their own fake breaking news images, according to the Poynter Institute’s fact-checking site, Politifact. The bag of cocaine appears to be a stock image, and the news generator website’s watermark appears to have been blurred out.
Some users have also been pushing various snake-oil cures containing harmful products. QAnon conspiracy theorist Jordan Sather, for example, claimed in January that chlorine dioxide “can wipe out coronavirus.” His tweet pushing that theory has been shared more than 2,000 times.
LISTEN: Debunking myths and misinformation surrounding the novel coronavirus
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has previously warned against drinking chlorine dioxide, a common bleaching agent, for any reason. However, the FDA came out with a fresh warning about drinking it to kill the novel coronavirus last January in response to viral claims.
“We understand people are concerned about the spread of the novel coronavirus and we urge people to talk to their health-care provider about treatment options as well as follow advice from other federal agencies about how to prevent the spread of this illness,” the agency said.
It added that Sather’s so-called “Miracle Mineral Solution” will not cure COVID-19.
When it comes to the novel coronavirus, bleach is good for one thing: disinfecting surfaces.
“Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says.
The warnings have already generated plenty of mockery online.
“There is no coronavirus if there is no host,” one person tweeted.
“Seriously?” another wrote in response to a fact-checking story.
“Just stupid,” said several others.
“How dumb are people?” user Kevin G. Robinson tweeted. “Snorting cocaine or ingesting bleach won’t cure coronavirus they’ll kill you quicker!”
The World Health Organization has described the current flood of coronavirus news as an “infodemic,” which makes it difficult to get real information through the noise of fake stories and false cures online.
At least 37 people have died and 270 have been hospitalized after drinking methanol in Iran, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Tuesday. The deaths have been linked to a false rumour that drinking bootlegged alcohol can cure the disease.
Alcohol is illegal in Iran, but authorities say they’ve identified several bootleggers who mixed harmful methanol with bleach to create their own home-brewed coronavirus “cures.”
Nigerians have also been pushing useless cures such as drinking garlic-infused water, according to the WHO in Africa. There are also false WhatsApp rumours in the country claiming that the virus originated from a rhino horn.
The WHO is working with Twitter, Facebook, TikTok and other regional social media networks to try to curb the spread of misleading information worldwide.
More than 121,000 people have been infected and more than 4,000 have died worldwide since the virus emerged in China in late 2019.
There is no known cure or vaccine for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The disease spreads through water droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes, according to health officials.
Health officials say the risk is very low for Canadians, but they caution against travel to affected areas (a list can be found here). If you do travel to these places, they recommend you self-monitor to see whether you develop symptoms and if you do, to contact public health authorities.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve or bent elbow. And if you get sick, stay at home.
So, don’t drink bleach or go on a cocaine bender in hopes of staying healthy.
Just wash your hands.Follow @JoshKElliott
—With files from the Associated Press
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