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COVID-19: Getting Information from Social Media? Oh, Boy!

Those who rely on social media for information are getting bombarded with misinformation. See some examples seen mostly on Facebook and LinkedIn

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

As with any other popular topic, social media has shared lots of information and comments on coronavirus and COVID-19. Some of it is helpful and accurate and some is not. Here are a few examples of the latter, along with correct information from reputable sources.

1.  “Ibuprofen/Advil/Aleve/Aspirin makes the virus go from mild to severe. Spread the word!”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed that there’s no evidence that taking these over-the-counter medications worsens COVID-19. A letter published in The Lancet said that these medications may worsen coronavirus’ effect, but it’s just a theory.

2.  “Coronavirus can spread to our pets.”

WHO’s website states, “While there has been one instance of a dog being infected in Hong Kong, to date, there is no evidence that a dog, cat or any pet can transmit COVID-19. COVID-19 is mainly spread through droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.”

Although originating as a zoonotic disease that was transmitted from wild animals to humans at wet markets in Wuhan, China, it’s not established that pets are in danger in the US.

3.  “Check out this cure for coronavirus!”

Coronavirus is the name of the virus that causes the illness called COVID-19. WHO’s website states, “To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019. However, those affected should receive care to relieve symptoms. People with serious illness should be hospitalized. Most patients recover thanks to supportive care. Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The most effective ways to protect yourself and others against COVID-19 are to frequently clean your hands, cover your cough with the bend of elbow or tissue, and maintain a distance of at least six feet from people who are coughing or sneezing.”

4.  “Whoever owes you money, go to their house now. They should be home.”

While meant as a joke during a stressful time of home quarantine, minimizing contact with others is important to prevent the spread of any communicable disease, including COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website states, “Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for cancer survivors and people with other serious chronic conditions, people who are at higher risk of getting very sick. Avoid crowded locations like malls, theaters and sports venues.”

Since people can transmit COVID-19 even though they don’t feel sick, it’s especially important to stay away from other people and avoid touching one’s face in public.

5.  “We’re social distancing!” (Accompanied by pictures of people a few feet apart doing things like playing catch, attending a church service and using a blow dryer taped to a pole to dry a client’s hair.)

Social distancing is supposed to help people avoid sharing germs. If they’re both touching surfaces such as balls, pews, chairs, door handles and countertops, they’re sharing germs, regardless of how much distance is between each person.

The CDC states on its website, “Avoid touching high-touch surfaces in public places — elevator buttons, door handles, handrails, handshaking with people, etc. Use a tissue or your sleeve to cover your hand or finger if you must touch something.”

Staying home helps prevent touching contaminated surfaces. Playing ball, in-person church services and haircuts can wait. Again, these posts are likely meant as lighthearted, but unnecessary social contact spreads coronavirus.

6.  “Stock up on natural cleaning products to beat coronavirus.”

This is a sales pitch, not health advice. Some natural cleaners may be helpful; however, it’s wise to follow the advice of the CDC, “If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.”

For household cleaning, the CDC recommends using a diluted household bleach solution (providing the product has not expired). Follow the package directions and do not mix bleach with other cleaners. Use five tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water

Or four teaspoons bleach per quart of water. More isn’t better.

Alcohol solutions should contain at least 70% alcohol. Wear gloves while cleaning and maintain good ventilation. Allow the surface to remain wet for several minutes to ensure germs are killed.

For soft surfaces, use soap and water or other cleaners appropriate for the items. Launder items that are machine washable with the warmest water setting that’s appropriate. Wear disposable gloves while handling contaminated items and wash hands after removing the gloves. Avoid shaking dirty laundry. Disinfect empty hampers.

7.  “It only affects older people, so I’m not worried.”

Anyone can become ill with COVID-19. The CDC states that many populations should be especially concerned including, “people aged 65 years and older; people who live in a nursing home or long-term care facility; people with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma; people who have heart disease with complications; people who are immunocompromised including cancer treatment; people of any age with severe obesity or certain underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, such as those with diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease might also be at risk; people who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk with severe viral illness, however, to date data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk. Many conditions can cause a person to be immunocompromised, including cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications.”

Many people who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) for example, take immunosuppressant drugs. RA affects young adults through older adults.

Use social media responsibly by first checking with established healthcare organizations like the CDC, WHO and local healthcare providers before you post or re-post. Kindly offer links in the comments of erroneous posts so that subsequent visitors can find accurate information.