CHENNAI: As coronavirus has become a global epidemic spreading rapidly, so has the misinformation spreading across social media platforms claiming to provide health advises like do's and don'ts, home remedies, and even a cure for the virus, when no known medication has been found.
Many of these messages are unscientific, while some less harmful and some, very dangerous.
Serious health advises claiming to come from ‘Old Chinese Doctors’, such as drinking seven cups of boiled garlic water every night can cure the disease, were recommended.
Similarly, another forward message, claiming to come from a Chinese doctor ‘Kin Maung U’, advised people to eat more ginger, garlic, pepper and hot chillies. The doctor advises further, ‘‘Eat less sweet, sour and bitter. Don’t drink ice water and go to cold areas.’’
'Maung U' said that when the sun directly hits the virus-infected area, the virus disappears. Another message claiming to come from a Chinese professor, Laila Ahmadi, claims that the virus is caused by bats and snakes.
‘‘Lemon slices in a cup of lukewarm water can save your life,’’ adds the forward message.
Fake messages with the tag of UNICEF told people not to eat ice cream and anything cold. The message claimed that the virus stays in the metal surface for ten hours and cloth’s fabric for nine hours and that it would be killed if it is exposed to a temperature of 26-27 degree celsius.
However, UNICEF took to its twitter handle saying that it was a fake message. Some messages also advised people to avoid chicken and non-veg food.
Many racist memes targeting Chinese and North East people were also circulated in local languages with pictures of Tamil comedians. One of the memes, portraying a Vivek comedy, says ‘Beware of Virus’ referring to a person of Malaysian origin but in the context of Coronavirus.
A fake message said that Tamil film director A R Murugadoss was in talks to direct a film on the virus.
Despite social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp being on the run to hunt down misinformation, it seems to be reaching nowhere.
Express contacted the State Public Health Department to clarify whether these health advises were true.
A senior health official said that drinking large amounts of garlic water may have serious health consequences. ‘‘Several cups of garlic water may cause an inflammatory throat and cause mouth burns. These are no precautionary measures,’’ said the health officer.
The officer added that people can have ice-creams, cold-water and non-veg food and the food choices have nothing to do with the virus. ‘‘Food needs to be purchased at a hygienic place or cooked properly,’’ the official added.
Meanwhile, cops have been arresting people spreading panic through fake news on Coronavirus.
Three people were recently arrested in Kerala while the Tamil Nadu police too has said action will be taken on people spreading misinformation.
Tips given by health department:
- People coming from other countries must self-check their health
- If there are signs of coughing and sneezing, they must self-quarantine
- Avoid sharing WhatsApp forwards
- Clean hands with proper sanitizers, refer to World Health Organisation recommendations