Of course there has to be an abundance of weird and wacky theories about how to prevent or cure COVID-19, the life-threatening virus that’s ravaging the world, because there are weird and wacky theories about just about everything. But nowadays with modern communication technology and social media, these are spreading like wildfire, faster than the virus itself, and sucking a hell of a lot of people up in their madness.
Some of the suggestions are just silly, some truly eye-watering. It would all be a bit of a lark really and give us a good belly laugh, apart from the fact that so many people are being taken in by the extraordinary claims, and some losing their lives because some of them are downright dangerous. That bit’s not amusing at all.
Here’s a couple of examples. In India, a local politician BJP MLA Suman Haripriya has suggested a bit of cow urine or dung can smash that virus away, while the head of Hindu Mahasabham, a political party in India, similarly suggests a person who applies cow dung on his or her body will be saved, especially if they chant Om Namah Shivay, a popular Hindu mantra. Chanting and meditating may calm your mind, might even reduce blood pressure and get you in a better place mentally, but nope – not effective against nasty viruses.
Could be worse – an Irananian cleric from the city of Qom has a few novel suggestions for cures, including applying a liberal dose of violet oil to your anus before bed. The word liberal is key. Go wild!
Here are a few other myth-busting facts to shatter information previously circulating on social media. Fever tree bark does not have COVID-19 curative properties, and blowing a hot air dryer into your face or eating bananas will not cure you of the virus. And no, contrary to many Twitter posts, garlic won’t work either. Might be good for knocking off vampires or even flavouring your food, but not caronavirus.
And ffs (I know I really shouldn’t have to say this but), don’t drink bleach!
Some of the theories suck a lot of people in, like the theory black people are immune to the virus. The poor old Mayor of Miami Gardens even had to put up a video dispelling that mistaken idea after he got a backlash from coloured constituents complaining he’d cancelled a jazz festival when they thought themselves immune. That’s a mistaken assurance you certainly want to knock on the head quickly.
The World Health Organization is so concerned about the number of people taking these theories to heart that it now has page on its website dedicated to busting these myths, including some handy shareable infographics. Some of the myths include that COVID-19 is not spread via 5G networks, that if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds you don’t have the virus, and that taking a good hot bath will have you sorted in no time, even if you’re already infected. At least those particular ones aren’t dangerous and the bath might make you feel good.
Some of the ideas though are deadly. In Turkey, at the time of writing, more people have died from self-inflicted treatments than the disease itself. According to local media, at least 20 people died in Istanbul in March after drinking rubbing alcohol in a bid to protect themselves while another 34 victims were admitted to intensive care. That alcohol you sanitise your hands with? That is NOT FOR drinking. Wine or gin and tonic is way better for that.
It really doesn’t help when an un-named nutter, who happens to be in charge of a country with the scariest growth rate of COVID_19 in the world, actually tells all the folks the warm weather will knock off that nasty virus when it comes in in April, don’t you worry about that, like a miracle, or then if it doesn’t (spoiler alert – it didn’t!), touts an anti-malaria drugs instead and incorrectly announces the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had fast-tracked its approval for treatment of COVID-19. Oops – no they hadn’t! Let’s just ignore the lack of scientific evidence to support its effectiveness for this purpose and in fact can cause serious side effects. Why not? Science schmience I say!
And guess what? That presidential proclamation led to a run on the medication and subsequent shortage for people who actually needed the drug, caused hospitalisations in Nigeria from people overdosing on it, and sadly even caused the death of a man and hospitalised his wife when they ingested a product with partly the same name as the drug the president had been touting.
Of course there are always going to be people trying to make a buck from it all by selling the snake oil cures. Were you quick enough to snaffle up one of the light-emitting pulsing bits of kitchen hardware recently spruiked by Pete Evens, of celebrity chef nut-job fame, at the very affordable cost of only $15,000 a piece, which includes a couple of caronavirus ‘recipes’.? Aahh, too late if you didn’t as they have miraculously disappeared from his website. I believe our Therapeutic Goods Authority may be having a little peek at that.
Meanwhile in the USA, a number of organisations have been trying to flog off magic cures which the FDA and Federal Trade Commission haven’t taken kindly to. They’ve written to a number of companies asking them to ‘cease and desist’ from selling these fraudulent products. One of the spruikers was good old televangalist Jim Bakker. Remember him from Christian television of the 70s and 80s? He’s the one who imploded in a sex scandal, lost the heart of ex-wife Tammy and then spent several years in gaol for defrauding viewers out of millions of dollars. The state of Missouri is onto him though and has filed a lawsuit against him and his production company to stop them from advertising or selling ‘Silver Solution’ and related products as treatments for the coronavirus. I think one of the lesson here is just not to buy anything from Jimmy, probably not even God. In fact, best avoid him altogether.
So people of the world, here’s the truth. There’s a lot of rubbish out there, and some of it is bloody dangerous. Get your information from reliable and truthful sources, not from a QAnon Facebook group, or an anti-vaxxer Twitter thread. Not from your cousin’s mate’s ex-wife’s colleague, or sadly not even from the President of the United States. (Oh look, I mentioned him. #sorrynotsorry)
Trust the experts instead. You know, people like actual scientists and medical experts. Organisations like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the WHO, your local state or federal government health websites and reliable news sources. This virus is bad enough on its own without a lot of bunk theories and wackiness. Bad information is worse than not washing your hands.
Keep well out there, folks, and keep clear of the crazies.