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Don’t Fall for These 3 Myths About the New Coronavirus

  • Bonkers theories about the Wuhan coronavirus are floating around social media. Don’t believe everything you read.
  • Myths have been spreading, including the idea that pets can get the new virus.
  • Facebook and other social media sites are taking steps to crack down on misinformation.

Did the coronavirus come from Corona beer? It might sound like a far-fetched idea, but searches for “coronavirus beer” spiked over the last few weeks — an indication of the kinds of questions people have been asking about this health emergency.

In case it needs to be said, an icy cold pale lager isn’t the source of the coronavirus.

“The term ‘corona’ simply means crown,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virus expert and head of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic. “When you look at the virus through an electron microscope, it has these projections called S-spikes that look kind of crown-like.”

The beer rumor is just one of dozens of strange theories about the novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, that have been swirling around social media. Some of them contain dangerous medical advice that could seriously harm your health.

Here are a few myths about this coronavirus to watch out for, along with the truth behind these claims.

Myth #1: Pets can catch and spread the coronavirus

A company that produces breathing masks for dogs told Fox Business that customers have been buying its products in droves in places where the coronavirus has been confirmed in recent weeks. There are even pictures of dogs wearing the masks in public.

“You’re not going to get a dangerous human coronavirus from Fido,” said Poland. “It’s true that dogs, cats, and most species carry their own kinds of coronavirus, but those are not human pathogens.”

There’s no need to put a mask on your furry friend, he added. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that there’s no evidence that the coronavirus can infect companion animals, like dogs and cats.

Myth #2: Drinking Miracle Mineral Solution will protect you from the coronavirus

Miracle Mineral Solution has been touted by some social media users as a remedy for everything from autism to HIV — claims that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already dismissed.

Is there any truth behind new rumors that drinking the solution will kill the coronavirus?

“Drinking a strange beverage will not prevent you from acquiring the infection,” said Dr. Andres Romero, infectious disease specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif.

In fact, Miracle Mineral Solution (and similar products) contains sodium chlorite, which turns into bleach when mixed with citric acid as per the instructions.

“You will end up with esophageal pathology if you drink diluted bleach,” warned Poland. “The way this virus infects you is in your respiratory cells, not your gastrointestinal system.”

Myth #3: Antibiotics can prevent or treat the new coronavirus

Maybe you have some antibiotics hanging around your medicine cabinet. Should you take them if you come down with symptoms of the coronavirus? How about as a preventive measure?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibiotics only treat bacterial infections — not viruses like the coronavirus.

As for prevention, antibiotics won’t help with that either, said Poland.

How to protect yourself

There are a few simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of catching or spreading the coronavirus. Although if you’re in the United States, your chances of contracting the virus remain very small.

“Wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze,” said Romero.

If you know you’ll be in close quarters with people who are coughing and sneezing, like on an airplane, consider wearing an N95 face mask, said Poland.

He added that while the coronavirus is alarming, the top health concern for Americans should be the flu, which the CDC predicts will kill at least 10,000 people and infect up to 26 million in total this season.

Fortunately, the same precautionary measures experts recommend taking to avoid the coronavirus can also help ward off the flu.

If you do come down with symptoms — such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath — that might indicate you have the coronavirus, avoid contact with others and get in touch with your doctor right away.

“The only thing we can do is provide supportive care [to people with the coronavirus],” explained Poland. “More severe cases may need hospitalization, ventilatory support, and fluids or nutrients intravenously, but it depends on how severe or complex the disease is.”

Cracking down on misinformation about the coronavirus

The coronavirus has put people around the world on edge. That has resulted in a surge of social media posts that contain false theories about the virus, which could ultimately worsen the public health crisis.

On Jan. 30, Facebook announced it would remove content with conspiracy theories and unproven information about the coronavirus from its platform.

While that may help curb the spread of some rumors, people who are concerned about the coronavirus still need to be careful about where they’re getting their information, said Romero.

“You should always double-check your sources,” said Romero. “Don’t rely on just one source, and look at information coming from other countries so you can understand how this virus is really behaving.”

The CDC and WHO are trustworthy places to go for information about the coronavirus. Unbiased, fact-checked media sources can also keep you up to date on the latest health news.

And always keep your own risk level for the virus in perspective to avoid panic.

“The average American has an unquantifiably low risk of this novel coronavirus at this point in time,” said Poland.

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