Fact Check: Don't trust social media tips on Coronavirus

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Published: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:12 PM CDT
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KCRG-TV9 is checking rumors circulating about COVID-19 - including a viral social media post with tips on how to get the virus.

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Posted by Allison Jordan Dols on Sunday, March 22, 2020

The post has been sent to us in many forms. It usually cites unnamed doctors - often from China - who are said to be getting a better understanding of the virus. It then lists tips to prevent COVID-19. Spoiler alert – none of them do. How do we know this? Because you’ve probably heard health officials repeatedly say there is no known treatment or vaccine to stop COVID-19.

The advice itself actually isn’t harmful and sounds logical, similar to common home remedies for the cold. It centers on the correct information that COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system.

Several focus on drinking liquids:

-Drink warm beverages

-sip warm water every 20 minutes

-refrain from cold beverages

-gargle with anti-septic mouthwash and warm water.

These tips center on another claim in the email: that the coronavirus will live in your sore throat for 1-3 days. Politifact and Facebook flagged this as false. Drinking lots of water – warm or cold – is always good when you are sick and gargling with salt water or mouthwash can ease the pain of a sore throat. But several health experts, most notably the World Health Organization, say none of those will stop you from getting the virus in the first place.

The tips continue:

-The Sun can neutralize the virus.  This is FALSE.  While high-intensity UV light is used to disinfect, the sun does not produce enough of this specific UV ray to reliably kill viruses.  

-The virus can be carried on hair and clothes.  This is true.  How long a virus is viable on hair or clothing is unclear and likely varies by material.  One study from the National Institutes of Health found the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours.  A new CDC analysis found the virus on surfaces of a cruise ship 17 days after people left.  Neither study looked at hair or clothes.  The CDC recommends wearing gloves when handling dirty laundry of a COVID-19 patient and then washing your hands immediately, among other advice, indicating there is a risk the virus can survive on clothing for an unknown time. 

-The virus can live on metallic surfaces for 9 day – avoid handrails and door handles.  Maybe.  The study noted above found the virus lived for just 2-3 days on stainless steel and only 4 hours on copper.  But new data shows it can survive on some surfaces for up to 17 days.  So it’s not all metallic surfaces – it really varies.

-Consume fruits, vegetables to keep zinc levels high.  This is a maybe.  UC Health Hospitals in Colorado says there is good evidence Zinc can help fight another type of coronavirus :the common cold. But there is no study yet to confirm it will work on *THIS* Coronavirus.  A leading expert on Coronaviruses told Snopes.com he recommends taking Zinc at the first sign of symptoms - but even he notes that's not a guarantee you won't get COVID-19.


-Finally - it says if you can hold your breathe for 10 seconds without coughing, you don't have Coronavirus.  Yep, that's false.  The head of Infectious diseases at the University of Maryland says most young patients who get sick will have no problem passing that test, while many older people couldn't do that while healthy.

Send us the rumors and speculation you see and we'll check it out.  Message the KCRG Facebook page or email Questions@kcrg.com.