Don’t panic! Now that we’re all spending an unhealthy amount of time on the internet, it’s easy to get swept up in strange human crowd behaviours even while we’re self-isolating. What to believe? Who to trust? Is that thing everyone’s sending around actually true?
To share or not to share?
Before you hit the share button on your social media drug of choice, let’s take a few minutes to bust some COVID-19 myths:
1. Hair Dryers Cure COVID-19 and Stop its Spread. Your helpful friends might have sent you an official-looking video by a ‘futurologist’ named Dr Dan Lee Dimke who reckons sticking a blow dryer in your face or sitting in a sauna and breathing in hot air will kill the virus. This is untrue and potentially dangerous. In fact evidence suggests soap and water is a better way to kill the virus than hot air hand-dryers. Dr Dimke is not a medical doctor.
2. Hot Weather Kills The Virus. This one has been spread by US President Donald Trump and others. Unfortunately, if we consistently get the kind of weather that would be needed (50 degrees Celsius) we would have worse problems than COVID-19.
3. Dark Skinned People Are Immune. This theory has been popular in the USA and PNG recently, but is completely untrue. Because the virus doesn’t target skin cells, the amount of melanin in your skin is irrelevant.
4. Drinking Cow Urine Stops You Getting it. This one is more popular in India than Australia (so far). Although cow urine has slightly disinfectant properties which make it vaguely useful for people without access to soap and water, you would have to drink an enormous quality for it to have any effect on the virus, no matter how sacred the cow.
5. Petrol Bowser Handles Spread the Virus. Versions of this exist in many countries, with different official-sounding sources from hospital emergency departments credited. While it’s true that there’s a risk from handling any object that other people touch, petrol bowsers are not a special case. Experts advise that you wear disposable gloves or wipe down any public surfaces you need to touch with disinfectant wipes, and not touch your face or anything at home until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly afterwards. Many petrol stations have also improved their cleaning routines recently.
6. Alcohol Kills the Virus. This myth is very popular in Iran at the moment, but bottle shops remain an ‘essential service’ in Australia as well, so we might be next. Unfortunately experts have stated that you would need to drink so much alcohol for this to work that it would kill you before the virus did. Even 40% alcohol content is nowhere near what would be required.
7. Smoking Stops It. Nup, smoking makes it worse, by increasing the number of ACE2 receptors in the lungs that cause the virus to gain a toehold in your body.
8. Gargling With Stuff Will Save You. Unfortunately the experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine have said that gargling with salt water, antibacterial mouthwashes and the like will not be enough to stop COVID-19, no matter what that friend of your friend on Facebook reckons. The problem is that once the virus is in your system, you have to get rid of the cell itself, and only your immune system can do that. Some gargles might help to improve your mouth hygiene however.
9. Nostradamus Predicted All This in 1551. Alas, the 16th century astrologer didn’t see this one coming. He never wrote anything like the text you might have seen on the net about a queen from the east in a twin year causing a plague and wreaking havoc on the stock market.
Boring as it might be, the only thing that actually seems to have worked so far in the world against this particular plague is good public health policy, social distancing, widespread testing and personal hygiene.
Until the vaccine becomes available, or the internet breaks, keep washing your hands!