A respiratory disease belonging to the coronavirus family, COVID-19, which started in Wuhan, China, has as of March 24, 2020, spread to 195 countries.
The disease has so far affected over 375,498 people and claimed over 16,362 lives globally.
The hardest-hit countries have been China, Italy, United States of America, Spain and Germany.
Ghana’s index cases of the COVID-19 were announced on March 12, 2020 and has since risen to 68.
In the wake of the fast-spreading Covid-19, a lot of misinformation about the disease is being bandied around, particularly on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. One central area of misinformation has been on a cure for the coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there is currently no specific treatment, drug or vaccine for the COVID-19. Patients are treated based on signs and symptoms exhibited and a number of them have been cured.
This has however not prevented misinformation around purported Covid-19 cure.
DUBAWA and fact-checkers around the world have looked into over a 500 of these claims and found most of them to be false.
We present an overview of the most popular false claims surrounding coronavirus cures circulating in Ghana.
1. Chloroquine and Hydroxyl chloroquine are Covid-19 cures
Chloroquine and its counterpart, hydroxyl chloroquine, has been all the rage following reports that it has shown some promise in curing the coronavirus. The position of the United States’ President, Donald Trump, that the drugs have shown “tremendous promise” and could be a “game changer” has sent many stocking up on the drugs. Media reports indicate people have overdosed on the drugs and have had to receive medical treatment following these claims.
Contrarily, there is no definitive proof that the drugs can cure or are effective against Covid-19.
Indeed, there have been studies which suggest the drugs are ‘potential’ cures. However, these studies are not conclusive – they have drawbacks. One such research by the Méditerranée Infection University Hospital Institute in Marseille admits that their study’s limitation includes “a small sample size, limited long-term outcome follow-up, and dropout of six patients from the study.”
On Mr Trump’s validation of chloroquine, he had said the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has approved the drug to treat coronavirus. The FDA said it has not. The authority issued a statement saying it had not approved the drug for use against Covid-19 and is still studying its effectiveness against the disease.
2. Dettol is effective against the Covid-19
This claim has been shared extensively on social media platforms such as WhatsApp, not just in Ghana but in other parts of the world.
It showed an image of a Dettol bottle with the word ‘coronavirus’ circled laying emphasis on the antiseptic’s ability to deal with the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.
Manufacturers of the Dettol, Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (RB), says it has not yet tested its products on the novel coronavirus and could not confirm whether Dettol is effective against the new coronavirus strain.
Dettol has been tested on, and found to kill coronaviruses such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Not so the novel coronavirus, Covid-19.
“Our products have been tested against other coronaviruses (such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) and have been found to kill those. Although 2019-nCoV is a new strain, this virus is very similar to other coronaviruses. We continue to work with our partners to ensure that we have the latest understanding of the virus, route of transmission and will test our product range once health authorities make the strain available,” the producers of Dettol said.
3. Garlic prevents coronavirus
WhatsApp and Facebook have been awashed with this claim.
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that garlic can cure or prevent Covid-19.
Although garlic has shown potential benefits in treating certain conditions, it is categorised by health experts as food supplements and not medicine. Misuse of garlic would rather result in health complications ranging from bad odour to heart burns.
4. Drinking alcohol e.g. akpeteshie kills the virus; also good substitute for hand sanitizers.
Following a shortage of hand sanitizers around the world, people are devising means to keep safe. Some have claimed that alcoholic bitters or spirits, in Ghana, the popular ‘akpeteshie’ can serve as good substitute for hand sanitizers.
This claim has been debunked by health experts. Alcoholic bitters and spirits on the market have between 40 – 50 percent alcohol content.
This is according to the WHO and the Centre for Plant Medicine Research. An effective hand sanitizer must have 60-70 percent alcohol content.
Drinking alcohol will not kill the virus. Mr. Roger Ahiable, a Deputy Director of Pharmaceutical Services, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, tells Dubawa: “Consumption of alcohol by mouth cannot disinfect viral colonies in the respiratory system,” he said. “We shouldn’t cause other systematic damages by alcohol consumption while trying to prevent infection. It is not wise. It will eventually damage the immune strength of the consumer.”
5. Gargling with saline solution can eliminate the coronavirus
A viral image shared on Facebook claimed gargling with saline solution or vinegar solution will eliminate the coronavirus.
This has been debunked by fact-checkers. Gargling with saline solution may be helpful in soothing sore throat, one of the symptoms of the coronavirus. In fact, NHS recommends gargling with warm saline water for adults suffering from sore throats.
However, there is no evidence that it kills the virus. Indeed, the WHO, in its Q&A about coronavirus on twitter debunked a similar question of whether gargling mouthwash can protect one from COVID-19.
6. Used clothes can transmit coronavirus
“It would be better now and for your safety and that of your children to avoid the use of newly acquired used clothing.” This quote is an excerpt from a viral WhatsApp message.
The text warns readers to be cautious when shopping for clothes; to get new and not used garments amid the pandemic. The author believes that clothes of index victims are being discarded and sold to Africans.
There is no sufficient evidence to support this claim. While health experts have not ascertained the exact length of time COVID-19 stays active on fabrics, the WHO suggests a low probability of infection via package delivery.
This rationale holds as studies show environmental changes and time affect the activeness of COVID-19; all of which are present in shipping clothing from another country.
7. Adutwumwaa Bitters cure for Coronavirus
This claim was shared predominantly on Twitter.
For many who may have seen this claim, it may have seemed like a joke and not worth the time of fact-checkers. However, in an era where there is a lot of uncertainty, claims or jokes like this may be taken as the truth.
Producers of the medicine, Adumtwumwaa Herbal Industries Limited, have emphatically stated that their product cannot and does not cure the deadly virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is no cure, vaccine or specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat coronavirus at the moment.
Simple guide to help your sort fact from fiction
1. Pause and reflect before forwarding or sharing a message especially if it makes you scared, anxious or angry. Fake news creators often want traffic to their sites and they know they can get you to help if they play on your emotions.
2. Look out for the source of information. Ask whoever sent you the message, ‘where is this from?’ if a source is not cited. If it is, is it a credible, authoritative source?
3. Verify or crosscheck with credible sources. Note that if it is true, it is likely to be reported by credible media outfits. For information on coronavirus, you best bet is the World Health Organisation, Ghana Health Service, reputable media outfits and fact-checkers.