Coronavirus myths debunked: 5G isn’t responsible for the deadly infection, it didn’t crash-land on Earth on a meteor and dousing yourself in alcohol won’t kill the illness
- Some suggested that the virus has come from space or been invented in a lab
- Others said that hand dryers spraying with alcohol or chlorine with protect you
- Also fears that the virus can be transmitted through packages from China
As the coronavirus crisis teeters on the edge of becoming a global pandemic, bizarre myths about its origin and how to treat it have been running rampant online.
Conspiracy theorists have speculated that the 5G mobile network created the virus by ‘sucking oxygen out of people’s lungs’.
One theory doing the rounds on social idea claims the bug was a man-made biochemical weapon that was accidentally released from a laboratory in China.
Others have even claimed it crash-landed on this planet on a meteor from outer space.
Dangerous theories about how to treat the virus – including dousing yourself in chlorine or alcohol – have been slammed by experts who say it could harm young or impressionable people.
Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases professor at the University of East Anglia, warned the spread of misinformation could also lead to more cases.
He said fake news leads to bad advice and people taking ‘greater risks’ during health crises. Today the death toll soared past 3,300, with more than 96,000 cases confirmed so far.
Here, MailOnline dispels the wild, wacky and even dangerous myths about the virus:
Some have rumoured that the 5G mobile network caused coronavirus by ‘sucking oxygen out of people’s lungs’, while others believe that hand dryers can kill the virus
1. The 5G network did not cause the virus
In recent days, a bizarre new conspiracy theories have circulated on social media claiming that 5G ’causes coronavirus’ by ‘sucking oxygen out of your lungs’.
A post on Facebook page ‘Stop 5G UK’ claimed: ‘Wuhan is where 5G was rolled out.
‘What if all we are seeing in Wuhan is sickness from exposure to excessive 5G radiation, and weakened immune systems?’
And in a video on Twitter, an unidentified woman said: ‘5G absorbs oxygen, and that’s really important to know.
‘On your oxygen molecules, the little electrons, with 5G they start to oscillate. So 5G is absorbing the oxygen and then your haemoglobin can’t take up the oxygen.
‘So how long do you think it’s going to take the human body to fall over because it suddenly cannot take up oxygen into cells?’
It is true that Wuhan boasts a 5G network, but there is no evidence at all of a link between the network and the virus.
Public Health England said: It is possible that there may be a small increase in overall exposure to radio waves when 5G is added to an existing network or in a new area.
‘However, the overall exposure is expected to remain low relative to guidelines and, as such, there should be no consequences for public health.’
2. The virus was not made in a lab
Another popular conspiracy theory is that the virus is man-made and was deliberately released by the Chinese or American government.
On the 5G and microwave radiation group on Facebook, an article from Technology News claims: ‘It is becoming pretty clear that the Hunan coronovirus is an engineered bio-weapon that was either purposely or accidentally released.’
Another rumour suggested that a secret Chinese lab had been working on a bioweapon which escaped.
Another popular conspiracy theory is that the virus is man-made and was deliberately released by the Chinese or American government
However, there is absolutely no evidence to back up either assertion and Facebook have said they are taking steps to combat misinformation on the social media site.
In light of the false claim, Harvard Medical School warned people to rely on experts, rather than unverified internet posts, for their information.
They added that people should be ‘skeptical of implausible conspiracy theories’.
3. The virus did not come from space
Reports on social media and elsewhere have suggested that coronavirus might have come from space.
One scientist, professor Chris Wickramsinghe of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology, had suggested that the outbreak had a ‘space connection’.
He said it was possible that the a fragment of a comet which landed in China last year was carrying particles of COVID-19 which survived.
Reports on social media and elsewhere have suggested that coronavirus might have come from space
However, other scientists have rubbished the theory, saying that the virus could not have come from space because it is so closely related to other known coronaviruses, such as the common cold.
Dr Dominic Sparkes, a specialist in infectious diseases, told IFL Science: ‘The most compelling evidence that SARS-CoV-2 didn’t come from a meteorite is that it is so closely related to other known coronaviruses.
‘It’s closely related to the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus that caused an outbreak in the early 2000s and the MERS (Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome) virus which still causes disease currently.’
4. A mask will not protect you against the virus
Face masks at many retailers in Britain and other countries have sold out entirely as people seek to protect themselves against the virus.
Some are on sale for hundreds of pounds on websites such as Amazon and retailers including Boots and medical supplies seller Medisave have sold out in store and online.
But Public Health England have said that while face masks play an important role in clinical settings such as hospitals, there is ‘very little evidence’ that they can benefit the wider public.
Face masks at many retailers in Britain and other countries have sold out entirely as people seek to protect themselves against the virus – but there is very little evidence that they protect against it
They added: ‘Facemasks must be worn correctly, changed frequently, removed properly, disposed of safely and used in combination with good universal hygiene behaviour in order for them to be effective.
‘Research also shows that compliance with these recommended behaviours reduces over time when wearing facemasks for prolonged periods.
‘People concerned about the transmission of infectious diseases would do better to prioritise good personal, respiratory and hand hygiene.’
And Professor Brendan Wren from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that masks will not stop people from becoming infected and may even worsen its spread.
He said: ‘The masks won’t protect against the virus because it’s so tiny. It is thousands of times smaller than bacteria.
‘I don’t think they do any good. They are smaller than air particles for pollution that we worry about. It will simply be breathed in.’
5. Letters or packages from China cannot carry the virus
It is safe to receive packages from China, the WHO said.
Analysis shows coronaviruses do not survive very long on objects – especially flying between countries.
As the world faced the early days of the outbreak, people questioned exactly how COVID-19 spreads and if it can arrive by mail.
It is safe to receive packages from China, the WHO said. Analysis shows coronaviruses do not survive very long on objects – especially flying between countries
There is nothing to suggest this is the case.
Michael Merson, of New York University School of Global Public Health, said: ‘There’s no evidence that there’s been spread from infected mail or packages.’
Experts added that the virus cannot survive for long outside of the human body and so would not be able to survive a trip through the postal network.
6. Ultraviolet lamps cannot sterilise the skin
Ultraviolet lamps, which pump UV rays into the skin, will not sterilise the skin.
They could, however, cause skin irritation, the WHO warned.
Ultraviolet lamps, which pump UV rays into the skin, will not sterilise the skin
Long term, UV radiation which also comes from the sun can damage the DNA in cells, which in turn may lead to cancer. It’s for this reason that tanning beds are advised against.
Hospitals and laboratories often use ultraviolet UV light to kill microbes, but never use it around humans.
7. Eating garlic is not protective
Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties, the WHO said.
However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.
There is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus
An online post went viral after claiming a bowl of boiled garlic water can cure the 2019 novel coronavirus.
Facebook has since blocked the post because ‘the primary claims in the information are factually inaccurate.’
8. Sesame oil doesn’t block coronavirus from entering the body
Sesame oil is a staple in Asian cooking. But that’s about all it’s good for.
Contrary to rife rumours, rubbing sesame oil onto the skin won’t block coronavirus from entering the body.
The WHO said, ‘No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus.’
Sesame oil is a staple in Asian cooking. But that’s about all it’s good for. Contrary to rife rumours, rubbing sesame oil onto the skin won’t block coronavirus from entering the body
This is because transmission is believed to occur when an infected person sneezes, and droplets land in a person’s mouth or nose, or they inhale it from the air.
Close contact with someone infected also raises the risk. According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, spread from person-to-person can happen from six feet apart.
9. Spraying alcohol or chlorine over your body will not get rid of the virus
Once COVID-19 is in your system, spraying substances like alcohol and chlorine on the skin will not be of any use.
It’s currently unclear if a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
But generally, there are some powerful chemical disinfectants that can kill coronaviruses on surfaces, according to the WHO. These include bleach and chlorine-based disinfectants.
They should not to be used on the skin, as this can be dangerous. It is also not recommended to sniff it.
They could be harmful to mucous membranes – the tissue lining the mouth, eyes and organs.
The WHO said: ‘Be aware that both alcohol and chlorine can be useful to disinfect surfaces, but they need to be used under appropriate recommendations.’
10. Thermal scanners won’t always detect infected people
Thermal scanners are being used worldwide at airports and railway stations. They can detect people with a fever – a temperature higher than normal.
‘However, they cannot detect people who are infected but are not yet sick with fever,’ the WHO said.
It takes two to ten days before people who are infected become sick and develop a fever. In some people, it’s taken 14 days.
Travellers may not be picked up by screening methods. It means they can unknowingly go on to transfer COVID-19 to other people without showing symptoms.
11. Pets can’t get ill with coronavirus
COVID-19 is understood to have transferred to humans from an animal at a food market in Wuhan.
However, at present, there is no evidence that pets can be infected by coronavirus.
Chinese nationals have made make-shift face marks for their cats who fear their felines could catch the deadly virus.
COVID-19 is understood to have transferred to humans from an animal at a food market in Wuhan. However, at present, there is no evidence that pets can be infected by coronavirus
And local media report cats and dogs have been thrown from apartment windows to their death in response to bogus claims that the animals carry COVID-19, according to The Sun.
Such measures are unnecessary, the WHO said.
The agency added: ‘It is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets. This protects you against various common bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella that can pass between pets and humans.’
NO EVIDENCE DETTOL CAN KILL COVID-19
Scientists have warned there is no evidence Dettol can kill the deadly Wuhan coronavirus rapidly sweeping the world after bogus rumours about the disinfectant spray have been spread online.
Eagle-eyed social media spotted a label on the back of a bottle which shows the product claiming to have been proven to ‘kill coronavirus’. It has been shared by thousands on social media.
Suggestions were made to ‘stock up’ on Dettol to prevent contamination. Some even fuelled conspiracies that Dettol is ‘the cure’ for the virus – but it has been covered up.
Although Dettol says its products rid some coronavirus strains, such as that which causes the common cold, they have not tested it against the lethal Wuhan strain yet.
This is because it was only discovered in late 2019.
The highly contagious virus which can cause pneumonia is spread with a cough or sneeze. Coronavirus may be able to spread on surfaces, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), such as tables or hand rails on public transport.
12. Vaccines against pneumonia won’t protect against COVID-19
Vaccines for COVID-19 are still in the making and are unlikely to be finished in time to curb the current outbreak.
Researchers across the world are racing to develop a drug with the WHO support.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak.
But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Infection specialist Professor Robin Shattock, of Imperial College London, revealed his team plan to begin trials of their experimental jab on animals soon.
Jabs for pneumonia – which can be caused by COVID-19 – will not work. These include pneumococcal vaccine and Haemophilus influenza type B (Hib) vaccine.
13. Saline nose spray won’t protect you
There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus, the WHO said.
Some evidence suggests the old wives tale can help people recover more quickly from the common cold because cells in the body use the chloride in salt to produce hypochlorous acid (HOCI) which is the active ingredient found in bleach.
But there is nothing supporting the method against other respiratory infections, including the new COVID-19.
There is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus, the WHO said
14. Gargling mouthwash offers no protection
Mouthwash cannot protect you from infection with the new coronavirus.
Some brands or mouthwash can eliminate certain microbes for a few minutes in the saliva in your mouth.
‘However, this does not mean they protect you from 2019-nCoV infection,’ WHO said.
Authorities have tried clamping down on those spreading rumours about COVID-19
15. Young people can also get COVID-19
Young people are also at risk of COVID-19, despite patterns showing the elderly are struck more often.
The youngest to be diagnosed is a Chinese baby born on February 2, testing positive just 30 hours after birth, Wuhan state media said.
Older people, and people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.
WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves from the virus, for example by following good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.
The family of an eight-month-old baby from Worthing, West Sussex, will find out today if the toddler has coronavirus.
James Adlam has ‘all the symptoms’ associated with the virus, according to his mother Stephanie Adlam, after being treated for a leg injury by a doctor who was later confirmed to have the virus.
16. Antibiotics will not treat COVID-19
COVID-19 is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. Antibiotics only work against bacterial infections.
‘If you are hospitalized for the 2019-nCoV, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible,’ the WHO said.
To date, there is no specific medicine recommended to prevent or treat the new coronavirus.
This isn’t uncommon; other coronaviruses such as the common cold also have no ‘cure’ and sufferers must wait for it to go on its own.
Treatment is given to relieve and treat symptoms, and those with severe illness should be receiving the best care available, the WHO urged.
Some specific treatments are under investigation, and will be tested through clinical trials.
17. Hand dryers will not kill the coronavirus
Hand dryers alone cannot kill coronavirus bacteria.
Rumours have claimed using the hot air from the dryer for 30 seconds will rid any trace of the virus on your hands, China Daily report.
Above all, people should focus on keeping their hands clean.
Hand dryers alone cannot kill coronavirus bacteria. Rumours have claimed using the hot air from the dryer for 30 seconds will rid any trace of the virus on your hands, China Daily report .
‘To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water,’ the WHO said.
‘Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.’
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS?
Someone who is infected with the coronavirus can spread it with just a simple cough or a sneeze, scientists say.
More than 3,300 people with the virus are now confirmed to have died and over 96,000 have been infected. Here’s what we know so far:
What is the coronavirus?
A coronavirus is a type of virus which can cause illness in animals and people. Viruses break into cells inside their host and use them to reproduce itself and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Coronaviruses are named after the Latin word ‘corona’, which means crown, because they are encased by a spiked shell which resembles a royal crown.
The coronavirus from Wuhan is one which has never been seen before this outbreak. It has been named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. The name stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2.
Experts say the bug, which has killed around one in 50 patients since the outbreak began in December, is a ‘sister’ of the SARS illness which hit China in 2002, so has been named after it.
The disease that the virus causes has been named COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease 2019.
Dr Helena Maier, from the Pirbright Institute, said: ‘Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that infect a wide range of different species including humans, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and wild animals.
‘Until this new coronavirus was identified, there were only six different coronaviruses known to infect humans. Four of these cause a mild common cold-type illness, but since 2002 there has been the emergence of two new coronaviruses that can infect humans and result in more severe disease (Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) coronaviruses).
‘Coronaviruses are known to be able to occasionally jump from one species to another and that is what happened in the case of SARS, MERS and the new coronavirus. The animal origin of the new coronavirus is not yet known.’
The first human cases were publicly reported from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where approximately 11million people live, after medics first started publicly reporting infections on December 31.
By January 8, 59 suspected cases had been reported and seven people were in critical condition. Tests were developed for the new virus and recorded cases started to surge.
The first person died that week and, by January 16, two were dead and 41 cases were confirmed. The next day, scientists predicted that 1,700 people had become infected, possibly up to 7,000.
Just a week after that, there had been more than 800 confirmed cases and those same scientists estimated that some 4,000 – possibly 9,700 – were infected in Wuhan alone. By that point, 26 people had died.
By January 27, more than 2,800 people were confirmed to have been infected, 81 had died, and estimates of the total number of cases ranged from 100,000 to 350,000 in Wuhan alone.
By January 29, the number of deaths had risen to 132 and cases were in excess of 6,000.
By February 5, there were more than 24,000 cases and 492 deaths.
By February 11, this had risen to more than 43,000 cases and 1,000 deaths.
A change in the way cases are confirmed on February 13 – doctors decided to start using lung scans as a formal diagnosis, as well as laboratory tests – caused a spike in the number of cases, to more than 60,000 and to 1,369 deaths.
By February 25, around 80,000 people had been infected and some 2,700 had died. February 25 was the first day in the outbreak when fewer cases were diagnosed within China than in the rest of the world.
Where does the virus come from?
According to scientists, the virus almost certainly came from bats. Coronaviruses in general tend to originate in animals – the similar SARS and MERS viruses are believed to have originated in civet cats and camels, respectively.
The first cases of COVID-19 came from people visiting or working in a live animal market in Wuhan, which has since been closed down for investigation.
Although the market is officially a seafood market, other dead and living animals were being sold there, including wolf cubs, salamanders, snakes, peacocks, porcupines and camel meat.
A study by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, published in February 2020 in the scientific journal Nature, found that the genetic make-up virus samples found in patients in China is 96 per cent identical to a coronavirus they found in bats.
However, there were not many bats at the market so scientists say it was likely there was an animal which acted as a middle-man, contracting it from a bat before then transmitting it to a human. It has not yet been confirmed what type of animal this was.
Dr Michael Skinner, a virologist at Imperial College London, was not involved with the research but said: ‘The discovery definitely places the origin of nCoV in bats in China.
‘We still do not know whether another species served as an intermediate host to amplify the virus, and possibly even to bring it to the market, nor what species that host might have been.’
So far the fatalities are quite low. Why are health experts so worried about it?
Experts say the international community is concerned about the virus because so little is known about it and it appears to be spreading quickly.
It is similar to SARS, which infected 8,000 people and killed nearly 800 in an outbreak in Asia in 2003, in that it is a type of coronavirus which infects humans’ lungs. It is less deadly than SARS, however, which killed around one in 10 people, compared to approximately one in 50 for COVID-19.
Another reason for concern is that nobody has any immunity to the virus because they’ve never encountered it before. This means it may be able to cause more damage than viruses we come across often, like the flu or common cold.
Speaking at a briefing in January, Oxford University professor, Dr Peter Horby, said: ‘Novel viruses can spread much faster through the population than viruses which circulate all the time because we have no immunity to them.
‘Most seasonal flu viruses have a case fatality rate of less than one in 1,000 people. Here we’re talking about a virus where we don’t understand fully the severity spectrum but it’s possible the case fatality rate could be as high as two per cent.’
If the death rate is truly two per cent, that means two out of every 100 patients who get it will die.
‘My feeling is it’s lower,’ Dr Horby added. ‘We’re probably missing this iceberg of milder cases. But that’s the current circumstance we’re in.
‘Two per cent case fatality rate is comparable to the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 so it is a significant concern globally.’
How does the virus spread?
The illness can spread between people just through coughs and sneezes, making it an extremely contagious infection. And it may also spread even before someone has symptoms.
It is believed to travel in the saliva and even through water in the eyes, therefore close contact, kissing, and sharing cutlery or utensils are all risky.
Originally, people were thought to be catching it from a live animal market in Wuhan city. But cases soon began to emerge in people who had never been there, which forced medics to realise it was spreading from person to person.
There is now evidence that it can spread third hand – to someone from a person who caught it from another person.
What does the virus do to you? What are the symptoms?
Once someone has caught the COVID-19 virus it may take between two and 14 days, or even longer, for them to show any symptoms – but they may still be contagious during this time.
If and when they do become ill, typical signs include a runny nose, a cough, sore throat and a fever (high temperature). The vast majority of patients will recover from these without any issues, and many will need no medical help at all.
In a small group of patients, who seem mainly to be the elderly or those with long-term illnesses, it can lead to pneumonia. Pneumonia is an infection in which the insides of the lungs swell up and fill with fluid. It makes it increasingly difficult to breathe and, if left untreated, can be fatal and suffocate people.
Figures are showing that young children do not seem to be particularly badly affected by the virus, which they say is peculiar considering their susceptibility to flu, but it is not clear why.
What have genetic tests revealed about the virus?
Scientists in China have recorded the genetic sequences of around 19 strains of the virus and released them to experts working around the world.
This allows others to study them, develop tests and potentially look into treating the illness they cause.
Examinations have revealed the coronavirus did not change much – changing is known as mutating – much during the early stages of its spread.
However, the director-general of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said the virus was mutating and adapting as it spread through people.
This means efforts to study the virus and to potentially control it may be made extra difficult because the virus might look different every time scientists analyse it.
More study may be able to reveal whether the virus first infected a small number of people then change and spread from them, or whether there were various versions of the virus coming from animals which have developed separately.
How dangerous is the virus?
The virus has a death rate of around two per cent. This is a similar death rate to the Spanish Flu outbreak which, in 1918, went on to kill around 50million people.
Experts have been conflicted since the beginning of the outbreak about whether the true number of people who are infected is significantly higher than the official numbers of recorded cases. Some people are expected to have such mild symptoms that they never even realise they are ill unless they’re tested, so only the more serious cases get discovered, making the death toll seem higher than it really is.
However, an investigation into government surveillance in China said it had found no reason to believe this was true.
Dr Bruce Aylward, a World Health Organization official who went on a mission to China, said there was no evidence that figures were only showing the tip of the iceberg, and said recording appeared to be accurate, Stat News reported.
Can the virus be cured?
The COVID-19 virus cannot be cured and it is proving difficult to contain.
Antibiotics do not work against viruses, so they are out of the question. Antiviral drugs can work, but the process of understanding a virus then developing and producing drugs to treat it would take years and huge amounts of money.
No vaccine exists for the coronavirus yet and it’s not likely one will be developed in time to be of any use in this outbreak, for similar reasons to the above.
The National Institutes of Health in the US, and Baylor University in Waco, Texas, say they are working on a vaccine based on what they know about coronaviruses in general, using information from the SARS outbreak. But this may take a year or more to develop, according to Pharmaceutical Technology.
Currently, governments and health authorities are working to contain the virus and to care for patients who are sick and stop them infecting other people.
People who catch the illness are being quarantined in hospitals, where their symptoms can be treated and they will be away from the uninfected public.
And airports around the world are putting in place screening measures such as having doctors on-site, taking people’s temperatures to check for fevers and using thermal screening to spot those who might be ill (infection causes a raised temperature).
However, it can take weeks for symptoms to appear, so there is only a small likelihood that patients will be spotted up in an airport.
Is this outbreak an epidemic or a pandemic?
The outbreak is an epidemic, which is when a disease takes hold of one community such as a country or region.
Although it has spread to dozens of countries, the outbreak is not yet classed as a pandemic, which is defined by the World Health Organization as the ‘worldwide spread of a new disease’.
The head of WHO’s global infectious hazard preparedness, Dr Sylvie Briand, said: ‘Currently we are not in a pandemic. We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci, and we try to extinguish the transmission in each of these foci,’ the Guardian reported.
She said that most cases outside of Hubei had been ‘spillover’ from the epicentre, so the disease wasn’t actually spreading actively around the world.
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