Biggest coronavirus myths busted
As the deadly coronavirus continues to spread rapidly around the world, so to does panic about what the virus could mean.
While people have cause to be concerned - nearly 100,000 people have been infected across more than 60 countries, and upwards of 3300 have died - misinformation, conspiracy theories and bogus claims are also playing a role in increasing fear.
The amount of inaccurate information floating around has caused the World Health Organisation (WHO) to dub coronavirus not only an epidemic, but an "infodemic".
"In this particular case, with COVID-19, because of the growth of social media platforms in recent years, information is spreading faster than the virus itself," WHO social media manager, Aleksandra Kuzmanovic told CNN.
The WHO defines an infodemic as "an overabundance of information - some accurate and some not - that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it".
In an aim to help prevent the spread of myths about coronavirus, social media platforms are now taking steps to elevate credible information and remove content that could confuse people.
Facebook will "remove content with false claims or conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organisations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them," Facebook's head of health, Kang-Xing Jin wrote in a blog post.
News.com.au has teamed up with social media intelligence agency Storyful to debunk the biggest myths about the coronavirus.
MYTH: CORONAVIRUS IS MAN-MADE
As the coronavirus has spread further - and faster - around the world, one myth that has circulated is that the virus was man-made by the "powers that be" in an attempt to control population numbers and to implement economic sanctions.
The rumours, which originated from unverified social media accounts and weren't supported by any credible evidence, have now been perpetuated by media outlets like The Washington Post and American politicians Tom Cotton, Joanne Wright and legal professor Francis Boyle.
Some Twitter uses also began spreading the idea that US author Dean Koontz had predicted the coronavirus would happen as a result of biological weaponry in his 1981 book, The Eye of Darkness.
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While it hasn't stopped misinformation from spreading, scientists in both China and abroad have widely dismissed the theories, saying there is no way that SARS-CoV-2 is a "laboratory construct nor a purposefully manipulated virus".
Experts are still trying to figure out the exact source of coronavirus, but research indicates it likely originated in bats and was transmitted to an intermediate host before jumping to people.
MYTH: BABIES CAN'T GET CORONAVIRUS
While most confirmed cases of coronavirus have occurred in adults - particularly the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions who seem to be most vulnerable to serious infection - this doesn't mean children aren't susceptible to the disease.
Children are capable of contracting the virus, but so far have experienced milder symptoms, Australia's chief medical officer Dr Brendan Murphy said.
Limited reports of children with COVID-19 in China have described cold-like symptoms, such as fever, a runny nose and cough, while adults are more prone to "reacting quite violently".
"We just don't understand whether children are getting infected at low rates or just not showing very strong symptoms," epidemiologist and head of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health's Centre for Communicable Disease Dynamics, Marc Lipsitch, told the Harvard Gazette.
"It's definitely the case that the older you are, the more at risk of getting infected you are, and if you get symptomatic infection, the more at risk of dying you are."
MYTH: NATURAL REMEDIES WILL CURE YOUR CORONAVIRUS
Natural remedies such as colloidal silver, gelsemium, bryonia or eupatorium abronatum and oscillococcinum are being recommended by homeopaths as viable solutions to cure coronavirus.
Similar suggestions of eating large quantities of garlic or taking vitamin C have also circulated - and while taking this action might be good for your general wellbeing, there's no evidence it will protect you or cure you of coronavirus.
"Garlic is a healthy food that may have some microbial properties," the WHO said. "However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus."
MYTH: HEAT CAN HELP KILL THE VIRUS
Taking a hot bath, sterilising your hands with an ultraviolet disinfection lamp or drying your hands using an air dryer are not effective ways of killing coronavirus.
In fact, the WHO said, engaging in these behaviours puts you at risk in other ways - you could burn yourself if your bath water is too hot, and UV radiation can cause skin irritation.
MYTH: WEARING A MASK WILL PREVENT YOU FROM CONTRACTING CORONAVIRUS
Despite the common idea that masks should be worn by those not infected by the virus as a means of protection, wearing a mask when you are well isn't necessary.
"Masks won't protect the average person," infection prevention specialist at professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa's College of Medicine, Eli Prencevich, wrote in a post on Twitter.
"There's no evidence that wearing masks on healthy people will protect them," he told Forbes. "They wear them incorrectly, and they can increase the risk of infection because they're touching their face more often."
The WHO's official advice is that "if you are healthy, you only need to wear a mask if you are taking care of a person with suspected 2019-nCoV infection".
Those who should wear masks are people who already have the new coronavirus and could potentially infect others, or who are coughing and sneezing.
MYTH: DRUGS COULD BE CONTAMINATED WITH CORONAVIRUS
A police department in Danville, Arkansas in the US has posted on Facebook, warning locals that drugs they may have purchased could be contaminated with coronavirus.
However, the post was likely a method for the department to catch drug dealers or buyers in the area.
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MYTH: DRINKING BLEACH WILL CURE YOU OF CORONAVIRUS
A number of claims have been made that drinking the chemical solution MMS (also know as 20-20-20) which is chlorine dioxide, an industrial bleach, will cure you of coronavirus.
"The solution we are proposing is a supplement called MMS which can effectively kill all pathogens (viruses) including Lyme disease and HIV and many other viruses that cause diseases," a post on the National Liberty Alliance website read.
"With MMS we have the opportunity to set the immune system free, empowering it do what it was intended to do."
Another "prevention" method circulating on the internet is to keep your throat moist.
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"Do not let your throat dry up," one Facebook user wrote in a post, claiming he had received the information from the Philippines Department of Health.
"Do not hold your thirst because once your membrane in your throat is dried, the virus will invade into your body within 10 minutes. Every time you feel your throat is dry, do not wait, keep water in hand."
Scientists have urged people not to ingest chemical disinfectants. "Please, please, don't drink bleach to rid yourself of the virus," Australian oncologist Ranjana Srivastava wrote in a piece for The Guardian. "The 'cure' will be more fatal than the disease."
There is currently no cure for the coronavirus, and it could be more than a year before a vaccine becomes available.
In the meantime, the best way to protect yourself is to take the same precautions you would if trying to prevent the flu.
The WHO recommends maintaining social distancing between yourself and anyone who appears sick, washing your hands often with soap and water, practising good respiratory hygiene, disinfecting the objects and surfaces you touch, and trying to limit the amount of times you touch your eyes, nose and mouth.