Coronavirus, a new SARS-like virus first reported in China’s Wuhan has claimed over 100 lives so far and has created panic in several countries.
As chaos ensued after the outbreak, a message, claiming to be a notification by India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, began doing rounds on social media. The message lists “important information” detailing the “prevention methods.”
The message reads, “Most urgent, very serious, important information. Ministry of health’s emergency notification to the public that the Coronavirus influenza outbreak this time is very very serious & fatal. There's no cure once you are infected. It’s spreading from China to various countries. Prevention method is to keep your throat moist, do not let your throat dry up. Thus do not hold your thirst because once your membrane in your throat is dried, the virus will invade into your body within 10 mins (sic).”
This message has been shared widely on Twitter, Instagram and The Quint also received a query about it on its WhatsApp helpline number.
WHAT’S THE TRUTH?
The message which is being circulated online claims to be a combination of the following two things:
- Notification by the Ministry of Health
- Preventive steps to be taken to avoid coronavirus
To find out if the Health Ministry has issued any advisory, we checked the official notifications released by the ministry on its website and its official Twitter handle. We could not find any advisory which was even remotely similar to the one which has been going viral.
However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has issued a travel advisory which was revised on 25 January, 2019. The other guidelines, including ‘Guidelines for Infection Prevention and Control in Healthcare Facilities’, issued by the ministry are all available on its official website.
Other than that, the ministry has put up a list of preventive steps on its Twitter handle.
Precaution is always better than cure.— Ministry of Health (@MoHFW_INDIA) January 28, 2020
Risk of Novel #Coronavirus can be prevented by adopting simple hygienic habits.#nCoV #HealthForAll #SwasthaBharat @PMOIndia @drharshvardhan @AshwiniKChoubey @PIB_India @NITIAayog @MoCA_GoI @AAI_Official @DDNewslive @PIBHomeAffairs pic.twitter.com/3zE5a5TRC8
These steps mention basic hygiene habits like: frequent washing of hands, covering one’s mouth and nose while sneezing, among others.
The Quint has also reached out the Ministry of Health for an official confirmation on the matter and this story will be updated as and when we receive a response.
HOW ACCURATE ARE THE MESSAGE’S PREVENTIVE METHODS?
Now, the second part of the viral message has enlisted a few preventive methods. Let’s take a look at them one by one.
1. The message says that as a preventive method people should keep their throat moist and not let it dry as the virus can invade their body in ten minutes if the membrane is left dry: While it is true that hydration reduces the risk of getting any infection, there is no study to prove that the virus can enter someone’s body if their throat is not moist.
Speaking to The Quint, Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, Internal Medicine Specialist at Max Healthcare, said that water helps and it’s important to keep yourself hydrated, but to say that a virus can enter because of dehydration, hasn’t been proven.
We also got in touch with Dr Neeraj Jain, Internal Medicine Gangaram Hospital, who termed the message’s claims as irresponsible. According to him, it’s important for an individual to take preventive measures while they are travelling to, or from, a high risk region, but drinking excessive water can’t be a blanket rule for every patient.
2. Avoid crowded places and wear a mask: Dr Budhiraja said that while people should avoid crowded places, wearing a mask is a weak argument.
“Masks are not 100 percent protection and virus spreads through contact more than it spreads through sneezing. The most important thing is to wash hands regularly which this message is not mentioning anywhere,” he added.
3. Avoid spicy and oily food and increase the intake of Vitamin C: Dr Jain said that it is also careless to say that increasing the intake of Vitamin C will help in the prevention of coronavirus.
Dr Budhiraja, however, said that while Vitamin C helps, it is not just with respect to coronavirus. He added that the argument about spicy and oily food cannot be substantiated.
Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that can cause a range of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever. Some are mild, such as the common cold, while others are more likely to lead to pneumonia.
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