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Coronavirus: How not to protect yourself

Jessie Wingard
April 24, 2020

The internet is full of misinformation about how to protect yourself. US-President Trump has now even suggested injecting disinfectant. DW takes a look at a few of the claims to separate the fact from fiction.

A salewoman in Wuhan with botttles of disinfectant
Only for external use!Image: Reuters/Stringer

The rapid spread of the coronavirus across the world is alarming scientists and the general public alike. The online and social media rumor mill is churning out false information about how people can protect themselves from the new virus just as fast. We take a look at some of the myths circulating online and set the record straight. 

Can injecting UV-light or disinfectants help against COVID-19?

At a press conference, US President Donald Trump suggested using strong UV light or injecting disinfectant to treat COVID-19 Patients. But that won't prevent or treat any cases of the disease. While UV light and common disinfectants help to kill the virus on surfaces, it would be dangerous and indeed useless if you ingested them to fight the virus in the body. Disinfectant is poisonous and UV light can cause skin cancer.

Can I catch the coronavirus from a letter or parcel sent from China?

While a lot of information about how the virus is spread is unknown, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that due to the poor survivability of the coronavirus on surfaces, there is a "very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks." That means your Amazon purchase is most likely safe to accept when the delivery man comes calling at your door.

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Will washing myself or putting bleach under my nose stop me getting the coronavirus?

Bleach/chlorine-based disinfectants, solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform can kill the 2019-nCoV on hard surfaces; however, they have little or no impact if you put them on your skin. Putting chemicals directly on your skin is extremely dangerous and can even be deadly.

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Can my pet spread the new coronavirus?

The World Health Organization reports there is no evidence to suggest that household pets such as cats and dogs can be infected with the new coronavirus. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water after touching your beloved moggy or pooch will help stop the spread of bacteria that they commonly carry, such as E. coli and salmonella.

Researchers believe the new coronavirus originated from wildlife at a live animal market in Wuhan, China. Animals in general do not spread the virus.


Read more: Coronavirus fears disproportionate compared with other risks

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Will pneumonia vaccines protect me against the new coronavirus?

The new coronavirus needs its own vaccine. Pneumonia vaccines such as the pneumococcal and the Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) vaccine will not protect you against the coronavirus. Scientists are working on developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, as it is also known.

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Will rinsing my nose with salt water stop me getting infected with the coronavirus?

Many social media posts claim that a top Chinese respiratory expert told locals to use a saltwater solution to rinse their nostrils to keep from becoming infected with the virus. According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence to support claims that a saline solution will "kill” the virus and protect you.

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Will gargling with mouthwash protect me from getting infected with 2019-nCoV?

Gargling with mouthwash will not protect you from the new coronavirus. Certain brands of mouthwash may eliminate particular microbes from your saliva for a few minutes, but, according to the WHO, this does not protect you from the new coronavirus.

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Will eating garlic stop me from getting the new coronavirus?

This dubious claim has been spreading like wildfire across social media. Though it is possible that garlic may have some antimicrobial properties, there is no evidence to suggest from the current coronavirus outbreak that eating this bulb will protect people from the virus.

An infographic showing a myth surrounding coronavirus

Cracking down on false information

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter are working to remove posts containing misinformation about the virus.

At the end of January, Facebook announced that it would delete all content containing false claims and misinformation about 2019-nCoV.

In a statement, Facebook also announced that it was targeting false claims that discourage treatment or precautions.

"This includes claims related to false cures or prevention methods — like drinking bleach cures the coronavirus — or claims that create confusion about health resources that are available," said Kang-Xing Jun, Facebook's head of heath. 

Twitter reported 15 million coronavirus-related tweets last month and has subsequently suspended all autosuggest search results that would be likely to produce untrustworthy content. 

What symptoms will I have if I do have the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is transmitted via droplets when an infected person exhales, coughs or sneezes. The incubation period for 2019-nCoV is 14 days, with people possibly able to infect others before symptoms appear. 

Read more: Coronavirus, cold or flu? How to tell the difference

An infographic showing the symptoms people show when infected by the coronavirus

How can I protect myself from getting infected?

The WHO advises people to follow the steps below to protect themselves against the new coronavirus and a range of other diseases.

Infographic showing different ways to protect yourself and others against the coronavirus

This article has been updated since its original publication