As coronavirus is spreading across the world, with rising number of infections and fatalities in European countries as well, and as it is wrecking havoc on global economy, it has posed challenges on several fronts—economy, public health and even livelihood. A new form of challenge has also emerged: That of myths and misinformation on how people contract COVID-19 and what they should do to avoid it. People have created such myths out of fear and panic. Such myths are good only so long as they encourage people to adopt preventive measures but can also drive the people to take measures that could potentially harm their own health. One such myth circulating in social media recently is about cow urine. Recently, an Indian lawmaker reportedly recommended that people should consume cow urine and dung to avoid infection. In Nepal too, including in Kathmandu Valley, such myths are making rounds.
A survey report of Republica shows that the valley residents believe in a number of myths. A local at Samakhushi believes that taking a hot-water bath can prevent and cure coronavirus. Another teenager has been told that she should not go near the animals. There are those who believe eating garlic, turmeric and ginger can prevent the infection. Others think that eating Chinese food can increase the risk of being infected with the virus. It can be transmitted through mosquitoes, hand dryers are effective in killing the coronavirus, spraying alcohol or chlorine all over our body will kill it, it only affects older people, so on and so forth. The World Health Organization (WHO) has busted several of such myths in its reports. According to WHO, garlic is a healthy food and it may have some antimicrobial properties but there’s no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from the virus. Likewise, WHO has also made it clear that there is no evidence that pets can transfer coronavirus to people.
Believing in misinformation and myths can be extremely harmful. It projects people from coronavirus infected countries as the carriers of disease. Besides, it discourages people to seek medical treatment. Thus it is important to spread right information about how one can contract coronavirus, how it can be avoided and what should be done if one is suspected of contracting coronavirus. While Ministry of Health and Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital have been issuing notification to people through public notice and through online channel, there is likelihood of a large number of people lacking access to such information. In this situation, role of the local governments will be vital. If the government can mobilize ward chairpersons and ward members to spread the right information about coronavirus, it could help dispel myths and misinformation among local people. For this, however, the local leaders themselves may have to be given orientation regarding coronavirus, for some of the local governments have been found issuing statements advising people to adopt measures that are not scientifically verified. It is extremely important to ensure that every bit of information that reaches the grassroots is verified. Misinformation about the disease can be more deadly than the disease itself.