Scientists dismiss list of 'totally bogus' coronavirus tips

Scientists dismiss dangerous list of coronavirus tips floating on social media as ‘totally bogus’

  • The bogus list claims to be from an expert from Stanford Medicine 
  • Prevention tips include drinking plenty of water to wash the virus to the stomach
  • The post recommends a false breath-holding test for COVID-19
  • The Government said it was ‘inaccurate’ amid circulating posts
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

Scientists have dismissed a dangerous list of coronavirus tips floating on social media as being ‘totally bogus’.

The list, being shared on WhatsApp and other social networks, claims to be information from an expert from Stanford Medicine – a claim the US university has denied.

Its fake prevention tips include drinking water to wash the virus into the stomach, where it is wiped out by acid, and were described as ‘absolute b******s’ by an academic.

The post recommends people self-test for COVID-19 by attempting to hold their breath for 10 seconds without coughing, which has been deemed ‘inaccurate’ by the British government.

Social media giants are working to monitor misinformation, which can be dangerous because it can lead to people ‘taking greater risks’ than if they were following official guidance.

Experts have warned about a dangerous list of coronavirus tips that falsely claim to be from Stanford University. The bogus list, being shared on WhatsApp and other social apps

The Department of Health and Social Care said urged to watch out for false guidance about coronavirus online in light of the anonymous posts (pictured right)

The Department of Health and Social Care urged people to watch out for false guidance about coronavirus online in light of the anonymous posts. 

‘We’re aware of inaccurate advice circulating on #COVID19,’ the department tweeted. 

‘Anonymous posts, claiming to be from Stanford Hospital or Japanese doctors, are suggesting you can self-check for #coronavirus by holding your breath. 

1. ‘Drink water to wash the virus away’

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at University of East Anglia said: ‘Absolutely b****cks. There is no evidence for that whatsoever. Even if the water did wash it off your throat. Viruses bind onto cells in the body very strongly and are taken in. So just washing water over it won’t do anything.’

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, said: ‘To cause infection, the coronavirus invades the lungs, and so ‘washing’ away the virus by drinking water is simply not going to work.’

 2. ‘Hold your breath for 10 seconds to check for the disease’

Professor Hunter said:  ‘That’s rubbish because a lot of people who are incubating the infection won’t necessarily have any effects on their lungs at all. I’ve never heard that.’ 

3. ‘The virus hates the sun’

Professor Hunter said: ‘Heat does kill viruses. If you heat something up to about 60°F (15.5°C), it’s likely to die in minutes. Similarly UV light will inactivate the virus and we do know if you look at the survival of these viruses on surfaces, the death increase as temperate increases.

‘But you can’t rely on that to protect you. Your lungs are about 37°C degrees, and with a temperature it’s a little higher. If the virus was killed by heat, we wouldn’t get ill.’

Dr Head said: ‘There has been plenty of discussion around whether coronavirus cases will decline as we head into the UK spring and summer.

‘There are also plenty of cases in south-east Asia and the Middle East, where there is high heat and humidity. 

‘So, we do not yet know if cases will decline as the summer comes, but I think this is unlikely to happen. ‘ 

4. ‘If you have a runny nose, it’s only a common cold’

Professor Hunter said: ‘The symptoms [of COVID-19] that are far more common are fever and a cough leading to shortness of breath. Those are the classic symptoms.’

Dr Head said: ‘A high temperature (fever) and a cough are the keen signs to focus on. Look at the NHS website for more detailed guidance.’ 

5. ‘Gargle salt water as prevention’

Dr Head said: ‘There’s no evidence at all that salt water will protect yourself from coronavirus infection, so do not rely on this approach.’

6. ‘It lasts on the hands for 5-10 minutes’

Dr Head said: ‘ We know that the virus can last on some hard surfaces for a few days, and it is likely the virus can survive for at least a few hours on a person’s hands. This is why regular and thorough hand-washing is so important.’

‘This is not accurate.’ 

It pointed towards for official advice on the outbreak.  

Stanford University said in a statement emailed to The Verge: ‘A widely distributed email about COVID-19 that is attributed to a “Stanford Hospital board member” contains inaccurate information. It did not come from Stanford Medicine.’

A chain message forwarded via WhatsApp said the virus could be prevented by drinking ‘plenty of water’ – at least every 15 minutes.

It claimed water and other liquids were needed to wash the virus down the throat to the stomach.

Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at University of East Anglia said: ‘Absolutely b******s. There is no evidence for that whatsoever. 

‘First off, it doesn’t just go into your throat. You can inhale it directly into the lungs.’

Loren Rauch, an emergency room doctor in Los Angeles with a master’s degree in epidemiology, told Mother Jones: ‘Totally bogus. That’s not real.’

The incorrect post also suggested that if an infected person sneezes, anyone within 10 metres is at risk of catching it.

Professor Hunter said: ‘Droplets are made of saliva, snot or sputum. They tend to fall out of the air quite quickly. If you are more than a metre away, you didn’t generally get the infection.’

Public Health England (PHE) usually trace suspected COVID-19 patients as anyone who has been within two metres of a confirmed case.

‘That is a very good cut off point’, Professor Hunter said.

The writer claims the virus ‘hates the sun’ and warm temperatures, a topic being debated by scientists.

Professor Hunter said ‘heat does kill viruses’, and UV light ‘will inactivate it’. But it can’t be relied on as a prevention method.

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, said: ‘There are also plenty of cases in south-east Asia and the Middle East, where there is high heat and humidity. So, we do not yet know if cases will decline as the summer comes, but I think this is unlikely to happen.’  

One of the myths peddled by the post says gargling salt water can prevent catching the disease, much like the old wives tale that says rinsing the nose with saline can protect against coronaviruses. 

Some evidence shows it can help people recover more quickly from the common cold. But there is nothing supporting the method against other respiratory infections, the World Health Organization has previously said.

Washing hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, has been advised ‘often’ by the NHS to avoid catching coronavirus. 

A cross-Government counter-disinformation unit was set up in a bid to deal with the potential extent, scope and impact of misleading and false details. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport-led team will engage with social media companies to monitor interference with the aim of limiting the spread coronavirus-related fake news. 

Official NHS guidance is now being displayed at the top of internet search results as part of a crackdown.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘These changes will ensure the latest trusted NHS guidance sits at the very top of Google search lists, so people can be reassured they are reading official, up-to-date Government advice.’ 

Steve Hatch, Facebook’s vice president for northern Europe, said:  ‘Anyone who searches for coronavirus or related terms on Facebook, or clicks on a hashtag on Instagram, is also shown a pop-up pointing them to the latest information from the NHS. 

‘We’re also removing false claims and conspiracy theories which have been flagged by leading health organisations and that could cause harm to people who believe them.’

It comes after a fake account posing as a hospital was suspended on Twitter for posting inaccurate information about coronavirus cases. 

The account, claiming to be a hospital in Andover, Hampshire, falsely posted it had received a number of patients with coronavirus-like symptoms before it was suspended by Twitter. 

Facebook has also stepped up its efforts, temporarily banning adverts and listings selling medical face masks, as well as addressing posts that promote fake cures, such as false suggestions drinking bleach is a solution. 

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister said social media has a ‘very important role’ in preventing conspiracy theories being shared online. 

On Wednesday, tech companies including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple were invited to Downing Street to discuss how they can help. 


Debunking circulating myths, the World Health Organisation said hand dryers alone cannot kill coronavirus bacteria.  

Rumours have claimed using the hot air from the dryer for 30 seconds will rid any trace of the virus on your hands, China Daily report. 

Above all, people should focus on keeping their hands clean. 

‘To protect yourself against the new coronavirus, you should frequently clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water,’ the WHO said.

‘Once your hands are cleaned, you should dry them thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.’

Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties, the WHO said.

However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus. 

An online post went viral after claiming a bowl of boiled garlic water can cure the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Facebook has since blocked the post because ‘the primary claims in the information are factually inaccurate.’ 

Sesame oil is a staple in Asian cooking. But that’s about all it’s good for.

Contrary to rife rumours, rubbing sesame oil onto the skin won’t block coronavirus from entering the body.

The WHO said, ‘No. Sesame oil does not kill the new coronavirus.’ 

This is because transmission is believed to occur when an infected person sneezes, and droplets land in a person’s mouth or nose, or they inhale it from the air.

Close contact with someone infected also raises the risk. According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, spread from person-to-person can happen from six feet apart. 

You can see the full list of myths here. 

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