Coronavirus: Which health claims are circulating online?
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect countries across the world, false and misleading health advice is still being widely shared online.
We’ve taken a look at some of the most recent examples and where they’ve come from.
1. The doctors who didn’t recommend vegetarianism
Often, messages will be shared containing generally sound advice but mixed in with additional claims that are clearly misleading and even potentially harmful. Because they are frequently shared on encrypted social media platforms they can be difficult to track.
Two of India’s leading medical institutions and a top Indian doctor have criticised a fake message widely shared in WhatsApp groups attributing health advice to them.
The message contains a long list of precautions to take to avoid getting the virus, many of them very sensible such as social distancing, avoiding crowded areas and observing personal hygiene.
But it also advises a vegetarian diet, and to avoid wearing belts, rings or wristwatches.
None of these measures has been shown to protect against the virus.
But this study was published in October 2019, before the Sars-CoV-2 virus responsible for Covid-19 was identified, and the data used in it was from the 2017-18 flu season.
For the avoidance of doubt, there is no evidence that a flu jab increases your risk of contracting Covid-19.
The guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control is clear: “Influenza vaccination does not make people more susceptible to other respiratory infections.”
3. Prolonged wearing of face masks is not harmful
Another misleading article being shared on social media claims the prolonged wearing of masks is dangerous to health.
The claim first appeared online in Spanish and was circulated widely in South and Central America.
A translation later made its way into English-language outlets, including a Nigerian news site which was shared more than 55,000 times on Facebook.
The article claims prolonged breathing while wearing masks leads to inhalation of carbon dioxide, which makes people dizzy and also deprives the body of oxygen. It recommends lifting the masks every 10 minutes.
Dr Richard Mihigo, of the World Health Organization, told the BBC that the claims are not true and could actually be dangerous.