Don’t listen to these crackpot coronavirus myths

By | March 6, 2020

The deadly coronavirus may have come from animals, but many of its purported remedies are from total quacks.

This week, the World Health Organization admitted it underestimated the virus’ death toll, which has climbed to over 3,100 since the first case was reported in December. And the fact that public health officials can’t seem to deliver accurate details has driven people to seek answers through more dubious sources, including religious leaders, conspiracy theorists and, of course, random people on social media.

The keys to halting the spread of coronavirus are good hygiene and preventative habits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Given what we do (and don’t) know about the infection, its best advice is similar to what it’s recommend during flu season: to wash hands several times daily, avoid touching the mouth and face and limit contact with sick individuals.

In the meantime, bad actors, charlatans and the generally ill-informed will continue to capitalize on the widespread panic — and The Post is here to debunk them (however obvious the disinformation may be). From guzzling garlic water to bathing in cow dung, here are the most curious coronavirus cures on the internet right now.

Bovine excrement

Earlier this week, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator in India said that “gaumutra” and “gobar,” or cow urine and dung, is “very helpful” against the spread of disease, she told an assembly in Assam. While there’s currently no known association between coronavirus and bovine species, this virus, like any other, could feasibly spread through feces, according to the World Health Organization. So, please, don’t go foraging for cow manure.

Garlic water, peppercorns or sesame oil

Garlic is delicious -- but it's not a coronavirus drug.
Garlic is delicious, but it’s not a coronavirus vaccine.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Some proponents of traditional medicine have recommended a few strange (and arguably delicious) tools to combat COVID-19, including a sesame oil scrub or drinking water boiled with garlic, the South China Morning Post reported, as well as peppercorns — exactly seven under the tongue — The New York Times wrote. It’s true that all three contain anti-oxidants, which indeed give the immune system a boost.

But according to the World Health Organizations, no food is powerful enough to outright prevent the virus. On Feb. 1, it tweeted, “Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from 2019-nCoV #KnowTheFacts.”

“Sesame oil,” it added, “is delicious but it does not kill 2019-nCoV,” said a post on Sunday, using the scientific name for the virus.

Sauerkraut

Dr. Purvi Parikh, an immunologist with NYU Langone, is “preaching healthy habits” for coronavirus prevention, including “eating a well-balanced diet,” she tells The Post. But when televangelist Pat Robertson suggested that his disciples stock up on probiotic-packed sauerkraut to help promote a “healthy gut,” he may have committed a leap of logic.

“If your gut is healthy, you don’t have to worry about corona,” he recently claimed on his show, erstwhile promoting his free pamphlet on intestinal health. “All that stuff, and you’re not gonna be sick from the coronavirus. That’s what’s so important.”

It’s true that some 80 percent of all antibody-producing immune cells are situated in your gut, as Robertson asserts, but it’s not the whole story. Since there is no vaccine for coronavirus, the best way to prevent transmission is to be vigilant about personal hygiene. And, as we already know, even seemingly healthy individuals could become ill and die from the mysterious virus.

Vitamin megadoses

Vitamins won't necessarily prevent coronavirus.
Vitamins won’t necessarily prevent coronavirus.Getty Images/iStockphoto

Although there is a China-based clinical trial in the works to test the antiviral impact of vitamin C, Purikh assures that gobbling vitamin supplements won’t be the key to keeping coronavirus at bay.

Vitamin C therapy, she says, “doesn’t have any strong immune-supportive evidence,” according to current studies. She acknowledges that vitamin D “has been linked to good immune health,” along with heart, lung and metabolic health, but urged those who are concerned about their nutrient levels to consult their primary care doctor first.

“You don’t have to go and take megadoses of anything,” she says, adding that “a well-balanced diet” should be enough to maintain your nutrient quota.

Antibiotics

Antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses, which means they won’t do any good against coronavirus. In fact, they may do more harm.

“People who overuse antibiotics are ironically at higher risk for more infections and more immune problems,” Parikh says. Studies show that using antibiotics outside of doctors’ orders contributes to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, rendering treatment inert. Parikh also notes that unnecessary use of these drugs may wipe out the good germs that help fight the bad: “Antibiotics kill off the good bacteria in our guts that actually help boost our immunity.”

Body bubble

Penda designed a protective suit to battle against the coronavirus.
Penda designed a protective suit to battle coronavirus.Penda China

Chinese design agency Penda dreamed up a high-tech body bubble to shield against the virus. The suit, called “Be A Batman,” opens on either side, resembling wings, and contains an ultraviolet radiation screen on the outside to kill the virus on contact, according to the company.

Unfortunately, the device is not currently in production, Fox News reports, so whether or not it actually works has yet to be confirmed.

Yoga

You can't yoga away the virus.
You can’t yoga away the virus.Getty Images

Considered a fundamental of Ayurvedic medicine, yoga is certainly good for the body. Unfortunately, there’s nothing out there to prove that deep breathing or the sun salutation pose will protect yogis from coronavirus, as guru Swami (or Baba) Ramdev suggested to television audiences in India, according to IndiaTVNews.com.

While there’s no scientific evidence to support the healing power of yoga, Parikh does stress the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this time.

“Absolutely, exercise is very good, getting enough sleep, hydration, eating a well-balanced diet — because if you aren’t doing those things you’re actually putting yourself at risk of getting any illness, not just this virus,” she says.

Bleach

Do not drink bleach.
Do not drink bleach.Getty Images/iStockphoto

The WHO says that bleach is an effective disinfecting agent — outside of the body. But don’t take advice from QAnon, purveyors of outlandish conspiracy theories, who have hawked bleach-like solutions for oral consumption, claiming it has curative qualities to help combat COVID-19, as well as HIV/AIDS and cancer.

As the Food and Drug Administration warns, drinking these bogus concoctions can cause “severe vomiting, severe diarrhea, life-threatening low blood pressure caused by dehydration and acute liver failure.”

Warm weather or cold weather

It's a nice thought that incoming warmer weather can prevent coronavirus, but wishful thinking.
It’s a nice thought that incoming warmer weather can prevent coronavirus, but wishful thinking.Getty Images

Earlier this month, President Trump suggested that “the heat” to come during the spring season may hamper the outbreak — and that may be true.

“There are certain viruses that are more prevalent in colder seasons” says Parikh. She says the trend may have more to do with indoor or outdoor activity as opposed to temperature. “But we don’t know what will happen with this one specifically, mostly because we’ve never seen this novel strain before.”

On Twitter, the WHO warned concerned citizens not to count on warm or cool climates to clear the virus.

“2019-nCoV has spread to countries with both hot and humid climates, as well as cold and dry,” it wrote.

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