- The spread of false information can be very damaging during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- There are many myths circulating in Africa, including that drinking black tea can prevent you from getting the virus.
During the second week of March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. By mid-March, the disease had spread rapidly in many countries around the world.
Governments are taking drastic measures, including the complete foreclosure of cities, as well as extensive health interventions to try to contain the disease caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.
There are still many things that are not known about SARS-CoV-2. This limited scientific information has contributed to a multitude of myths and misconceptions. Some of the statements made are harmless. Others can be potentially dangerous.
We identified nine misconceptions by going around social media in Africa and we decided to counter them. The goal of debunking these myths is to provide people with reliable information. And to provide people with valid, scientifically supported answers that they can share on social media to counter disinformation and misinformation there.
Myth 1: SARS-CoV-2 does not affect Africans
Across the continent, rumors are circulating that the virus does not affect black people. This was fueled in part by the fact that a Cameroonian student in China, who was among the first to contract the disease, responded well to the treatment.
But there is no evidence that melanin protects blacks from the coronavirus. There is also no scientific evidence that the composition of African blood prevents Africans from contracting the coronavirus.
This misinformation persisted even after the deaths of prominent black Africans, such as the legendary Cameroonian musician Manu Dibango and the Zimbabwean media personality Zororo Makamba.
This myth is not limited to Africa. Twitter has recently been buzzing with claims that African Americans are immune to the coronavirus
Myth 2: SARS-CoV-2 cannot survive in the hot climate of Africa
This myth emerged after research, which had not been peer-reviewed, showed that temperature had a role to play in the survival of the virus. One of the most cited sources was John Nicholls, professor of pathology at the University of Hong Kong, who said that “in cold environments, survival from the virus is longer than in hot environments.”
This claim, however, was not based on verified research. However, it was seized as evidence that the virus cannot thrive in the hot climate of Africa.
According to the WHO, the virus can be transmitted to all regions, hot and humid events.
The only continent that has no COVID-19 cases is Antarctica. It could change.
Myth 3: spray alcohol and chlorine all over your body
The use of hand sanitizers containing 60% or more alcohol has been shown to be effective in killing the coronavirus. But there is a myth that spraying alcohol and chlorine will kill the virus.
Alcohol and chlorine will not kill the virus if it has already entered the body.
Spraying alcohol all over the body can be harmful, especially to the eyes and mouth. Above all, the alcohol in the disinfectant is not the same as the alcohol that people drink. The latter goes up to 40% while hand sanitizers must be 60% and more.
Myth 4: Drink black tea in the morning
The media in Kenya has reported false claims that drinking black tea in the morning is effective against COVID-19 disease.
It’s wrong. There is no evidence that tea can protect a person from the virus. These allegations can lead to false security and can be dangerous.
Coronavirus can be prevented by maintaining a safe social distance and washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Myth 5: Lime or lemon pepper soup kills the virus
The myth of pepper soup has been circulated mainly in Nigeria.
Pepper has antioxidant, detoxifying and antimicrobial properties. But, there is no evidence that it prevents or kills SARS-CoV-2. It is also a rich source of vitamin C, which helps maintain a good immune system.
Likewise, lemon and lime also contain high amounts of vitamin C. But there is no evidence to support the claim that they clear the virus from an infected person’s system.
Myth 6: Spray your face with and inhale the neem leaves
There have been allegations, mainly in Ghana, that neem vapor therapy can prevent COVID-19. What we do know is that, according to experts in Ayurvedic medicine, neem can help strengthen the immune system and prevent viral infections.
Neem is known for its immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antihyperglycemic, antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. But, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pointed out that there is no clinical evidence to suggest that steaming and inhaling neem will prevent the coronavirus.
Myth 7: Vitamin C tablets prevent COVID-19
Vitamin C is a known antioxidant. It prevents damage to body tissue by neutralizing free radicals, which are charged particles that damage cells and tissues and cause inflammation. Vitamin C is also known to protect against pathogens.
But there is no evidence that vitamin C can prevent a person from contracting COVID-19, although there are ongoing trials of the use of vitamin C in COVID-19 patients. None provided conclusive evidence.
Myth 8: having malaria makes you immune
Several social media posts suggest that malaria-endemic countries have a reduced risk of contracting new cases of coronavirus.
There is no evidence to support this.
Malaria – which is caused by a parasite and transmitted from the bite of an anopheline mosquito infected with humans – was previously treated with the drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. These have been used, respectively, as an antimalarial and as an autoimmune disease drug for inflammation.
The over-hyping of chloroquine has led to shortages around the world and has led people to self-medicate. Experts have warned that high doses of the drug are toxic.
Myth 9: Flu shot will protect you
The fact that health practitioners are encouraging people to get the flu shot may have led to the misconception that the flu shot protects against the new coronavirus.
No. The flu shot only works against the flu virus – and even only against certain flu viruses.
Humans are known to be affected by six coronaviruses, four of which cause colds. The other two were the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2002 and 2012, respectively.
There is now a seventh coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
There is no scientific evidence that a flu vaccine can protect people from coronaviruses.