Busting myths: As Coronavirus spreads, so do fake WhatsApp forwards

Fake messages have contributed significantly to rising panic levels across the country. Photo: Shutterstock.com
*The coronavirus is large in size where the cell diameter is 400-500 micro and for this reason any mask prevents its entry

*The virus does not settle in the air but is grounded, so it is not transmitted by air

*Coronavirus when it falls on a metal surface, it will live 12 hours, so washing hands with soap and water well enough

The above three messages are among hundreds being forwarded on social media especially WhatsApp these days and they are all fake. Such fake messages have contributed significantly to rising panic levels across the country. 

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The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has now spread in over 150 countries killing more than 6,000 and infected more than 1,25,000 people globally. While governments across the world are struggling to come to terms with the scale of the deadly respiratory illness, panic and knee jerk reaction has been a challenge to deal with. The widespread trepidation over the virus has forced large scale hoarding of masks, sanitisers, tissue paper in several countries creating a shortage of essentials as people fear the worst. 

In India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been quick to create awareness campaigns, most notable is the mandatory coronavirus caller tune issued by BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Jio, Vodafone-Idea and Airtel to a combined subscriber base of over 100 crores. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had urged people not to hoard masks and sanitisers, had to constitute a team to take action against hoarding and suppliers overcharging for the protective masks.   

Despite the efforts, the panic seems to be growing and Covid-19 has emerged as a mythical virus with WhatsApp forwards adding to its glory. The World Health Organisation (WHO), which termed the outbreak as pandemic last week has now come out with several myth busters to break the chain of fake information and theories being built around the virus.


Here are some of the myth-busters

Myth: Covid-19 can only be transmitted in areas with hot and humid climates

While countries across the world are researching for a cure to fight the virus, a major discussion seems to be focussed on and around the transmission of the Covid-19 in areas with hot and humid climates. The WHO has denied it stating that the virus can be transmitted in all areas, including in hot and humid weather, regardless of the climate and that prevention should not be limited to certain regions. 

Unchecked hoarding of the hand sanitisers have been triggered by the spread of misinformation. Photo: Shutterstock

Myth: Taking a hot bath prevents the new coronavirus disease

With the debate focussed around transmission in hot and humid climate, many believe that a hot bath will rinse them of the virus, but the WHO is of a different opinion. The organisation said, "Taking a hot bath will not prevent you from catching Covid-19. Your normal body temperature remains around 36.5-degree Celsius to 37 degrees Celsius, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. Actually, taking a hot bath with extremely hot water can be harmful, as it can burn you." Health organisations globally have been advocating that the best way to protect yourself is by frequently cleaning your hands. 

Myth: The virus can be transmitted through mosquito bites 

A major fear among the public is that the virus is communicable and can be transmitted from one organism to another including the mosquitos. However, to date, there has been no information nor evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus could be transmitted by mosquitoes. The WHO maintains that, "The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose." 

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Myth: Spraying, pouring alcohol and chlorine kills the virus

A major reason behind the unchecked hoarding of the hand sanitisers have been triggered by the spread of information that alcohol prevents the virus from spreading, the global health watchdog however disagrees. The WHO maintains that "spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. Spraying such substances can be harmful to clothes or mucous membranes- eyes, mouth." They can be used only to disinfect surfaces. 

Security personnel outside a special isolation ward at Kasturba Hospital, in Mumbai, on Sunday. Maharashtra has reported 32 confirmed cases of COVID-19, ahead of Kerala's 22 cases Photo: PTI
Myth: The thermal scanners are most effective in detecting coronavirus

Countries across the world are conducting thermal scanning of citizens on war footing to identify the infected cases, however, the scanners only point to the body temperature and are ineffective detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with a fever. This is because the virus has an incubation period between two to 10 days. 

The governments across the world are recommending social distancing as a way to deal with the pandemic taking cues from China and South Korea. People are advised to self-report if symptoms appear.

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