By Rafael R. Castillo MD
In a pandemic like COVID-19, people tend to panic and be more gullible. With a hyperactive social media, irresponsible pranksters seem to enjoy peddling and spreading fake news and misinformation that will only mislead, rather than help, the public through this crisis.
This pseudo-infodemic, as it’s labeled, can go the full range—from the hilariously shocking to the grossly incredible. If intended as a joke, it may be welcome in panicky times to ease one’s cortisol, which may be shooting through the roof.
A Viber picture message which looked like breaking news flashed the headline that a famous elderly politician in his 90s has been confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. The politician’s smiling photo accompanies the banner story.
Then the smaller text below says that his doctors have disclosed that following a battery of tests, the coronavirus in his body has been found to be in critical condition—well, perhaps suggesting that it was because of the politician’s strong immune system.
Some misinformation is borderline incredible, but that’s where we can have a problem, because some people believe them. We’ll go through some of these.
- Alcohol (liquor) kills the virus. So a drink a day keeps the virus away. More drinks will cast the virus further away, and vodka is best.
It was reported that in Iran, several people died of binge drinking because of that false claim, such that the World Health Organization (WHO) had to issue a stern advisory to keep the bottle away. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are, however, recommended as part of hand hygiene, with frequent hand-washing.
- The flu and pneumonia vaccines are effective in preventing COVID-19.
There is still no available vaccine for COVID-19. Scientists all over the world are working double-time to expedite the development of vaccine, but the earliest we’re looking at is a year from now.
Meanwhile, having the regular flu and pneumonia vaccine is still recommended particularly for the high-risk, like the elderly and those with other longstanding medical ailments, but they should not have the false sense of complacency that they’re also protected from COVID-19.
- Drinking hot water every 15 minutes can kill and flush down the virus colony from the throat.
This is really imaginative but false. Keeping oneself hydrated is always a healthy advice, but I’m afraid trying to drink hot water every 15 minutes may cause more complications—the burnt throat tissues may be the cause of the sore throat and inflammation.
- This will be over by summer because the virus does not thrive in hot temperature and high humidity.
Not exactly true. Yes, the virus may have ideal conditions under which it multiplies and spreads faster, but it can do so in any temperature. Because of stringent containment measures such as the lockdown, we may be able to control the virus this dry season, but it should not make us complacent. There can still be recurrences if we’re negligent, and we’ll be back to square one.
- Any mail or product coming from China can be a source of COVID-19.
It’s ridiculous, but people are refraining from buying made-in-China products. Even the courier delivery boy who brought me the made-in-China product I ordered online was wearing gloves because he was afraid the package might be contaminated. And the funny thing was that I also immediately used my hand sanitizer after opening the package. How infectious indeed this misinformation can be!
The truth is, even granting the package was contaminated from its source, the virus could not have survived the long trip from wherever it came. But yes, hand hygiene is always a good practice after touching anything from the outside.
- Thermal scanner and temperature checking before entering the building can keep COVID-positive patients away.
It’s a good screening precaution, but not really 100-percent effective. Many COVID-19-positive patients may remain symptom-free, therefore, have no fever, for anywhere from one to five days after getting the virus. Some may just have very vague symptoms, like feeling a little tired even after a good night’s sleep.
So, if one feels anything unusual, even without the classic symptoms of fever, colds, cough, sore throat, diarrhea, one should rest at home, isolate oneself and observe any progression of symptoms.
- Social distancing is very un-Filipino.
Absolutely nonnegotiable! Yes, we’re sociable and friendly and touchy as a people, but we can still have alternative ways of greeting others and showing our affection while maintaining a safe distance of at least one meter from each other. Social distancing and hand hygiene are the two most effective interventions in preventing the virus spread.
- A negative test definitely rules out COVID-19.
Absolutely not! Depending on the type of test kit being used, it may not be able to detect active disease in one to two out of five tests (false negative).
Conversely, it may be positive in one to two out of 10 who may not have the disease (false positive). We’re hoping that Sen. Miguel Zubiri is one of these false positive cases.
Hence, the kit is supportive and helpful only in isolating the afflicted patients. But treatment of the patient is still based on his/her clinical presentation. The lack of diagnostic kits should not be an excuse to not manage COVID-19 patients promptly and effectively.
- Taking antibiotics and antiflu medicines can stave off an early COVID-19 infection.
This practice can be potentially harmful. Definite\ly, antibiotics will not prevent COVID-19 infection. It can even promote super-infection with other bacteria in the short term, and antimicrobial resistance in the long term.
Also, taking common antiflu drugs containing ibuprofen is also suspected to be a contributing factor to the worsening of COVID-19 cases in France. So, just take ordinary paracetamol for fever.
10) COVID-19 is serious and fatal.
We should not take COVID-19 lightly, so taking utmost precaution is a must, but it’s not doomsday should you be diagnosed to be positive for the virus.
Based on global statistics, with more than 120,000 diagnosed cases and more than 4,000 deaths, it can just be like the ordinary colds and cough or flu in the far majority of 80 percent.
Two of 10 cases can get a little more complicated, requiring hospitalization, and some may need breathing assistance with a machine-breather or a respirator. Of these 20-percent moderate-to-severe cases, 16 should be able to recover and live a normal life again, unless they develop additional complications such as stroke or kidney failure.
Three to four out of 100 COVID-19 positive victims won’t be able to survive the infection.
So, it’s always bad news to be diagnosed positive for COVID-19, but there’s a 96 out of a hundred chances that you’re going to survive it, based on the global average.
So, relax and calm your nerves. It’s not as bad and gloomy as many believe it is.
False: Drinking hot water every 15 minutes can kill the virus in the throat