As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to intensify here in Nevada and throughout the U.S., we’re seeing a companion outbreak that’s just as dangerous: that of “fake news”, “alternative facts”, and all kinds of unfounded rumors spilling all over the internet. Today we’re bringing out the microscope to examine the more common urban legends about heat and sunlight, and we’re investigating the more “exotic” (read: dangerous) myths about bleach, steroids, and vaccines.
No, sunlight can’t kill the coronavirus.
In the past three weeks, I’ve heard plenty of rumors about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus. Perhaps the most commonly spread rumor is the one about sunlight and heat killing the coronavirus, and that rumor got even more air play when Rep. Greg Murphy (R-North Carolina) posted a video onto his social media channels that included some facts on COVID-19, but also approval for the “sunlight every day keeps ‘The Rona’ away” rumor.
While high-intensity ultraviolet (UV) light can kill viruses, natural sunlight does not provide intense enough UV light to kill COVID-19. And while temperatures of 140°F or above can kill viruses, not even Death Valley gets that hot. This explains why even warmer climates face just as much risk of COVID-19 infections as colder areas.
If you want to keep yourself safe, stick with actual, proven techniques like proper social distancing, washing your hands for at least 20 seconds each run, covering your mouth with your elbow or tissue when you cough and/or sneeze, and staying home when you’re feeling sick.
Remember, kids: Bleach is for cleaning, NOT for drinking!
Another simple way to stay safe during this outbreak is to keep your home/office space clean. It’s good to use proven disinfecting cleaning products, including those with bleach. Yes, go ahead and use bleach to clean your kitchens and bathrooms. No, please don’t use bleach to clean yourself.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the “Genesis II Church of Health and Healing” was promoting its “miracle mineral supplement” (MMS), or house recipe bleach solution, and encouraging believers all around the world to drink its MMS bleach to “cure” everything from HIV/AIDS and hepatitis to cancer and autism. Yet contrary to “curing” any of these, the MMS bleach was making people sicker by giving them nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, life-threatening low blood pressure, liver failure, and/or severe damage to their kidneys and digestive tracts.
Back in January, the conspiracy-laced serial scammers at QAnon took the MMS bleach scam to the next level by promoting MMS bleach as a “coronavirus cure”. Despite the rumors you find on social media, there is zero scientific evidence behind this “bleach cures coronavirus” scam. And while you’re at it, don’t try snorting cocaine or drinking any kind of “healing water” to ward off “The Rona”, either.
No, steroids won’t give you “swole” or “jacked” “supernatural immunity”.
Earlier this month, I started to notice rumors emerging in certain weird corners of the internet (as in, my favorite hangout spots on Reddit) that steroids not only give you gains, but also make your immune system strong enough to crush the coronavirus. While anabolic steroids (as in, the “juice” that super swole guy at the gym wanted to sell you) may enhance your athletic prowess, there’s no evidence they’ll make you strong enough to kill the novel coronavirus with your own bare hands.
For one, the corticosteroids that medical professionals use to treat asthma and other respiratory conditions are not the same as the “juice” that super swole guy tried to sell you at the [redacted] gym parking lot. Second, the University of Edinburgh’s Dr. J. Kenneth Baille, Dr. Jonathan Millar, and Dr. Clark Russell published an article in The Lancet in February explaining that while steroids can reduce inflammation, they can also impair the immune system’s ability to fend off viruses like the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
So if you insist on “juicing” to further your “Instagram fitness model influencer” career, you should get stacked on the potential consequences of using anabolic steroids to build bigger muscles. You shouldn’t, however, expect that “juice” to save you from “The Rona”.
And finally, GTFO with the anti-vaxx BS!
— David Gorski, MD, PhD (@gorskon) March 31, 2020
Last week, we chronicled the eye-popping rant from “Goop trusted expert” Kelly Brogan, including her thoroughly debunked accusation that the U.S. government plans to use vaccination records to take “totalitarian governmental control”. Sadly, Goop-land isn’t the only corner of the internet that’s getting infected by anti-vaccine propaganda.
Last weekend, a far-right blogger began spreading the rumor about some “new military study proves flu vaccine increases coronavirus risk 36%!” His rumor then spread across the internet, even though the truth is that he and other anti-vaccine activists misinterpreted a 2018 U.S. Department of Defense study from an Ohio Air Force base that concluded, “Receipt of influenza vaccination was not associated with virus interference among our population.” Or in other words, the flu vaccine does not make recipients more susceptible to contracting another virus.
There is no evidence that any herbal remedy "boosts the immune system." "Boost the immune system" is a nonsense phrase anyway; it's biologically meaningless. The article is NOT benign. It presents unproven quackery as acceptable and a quirky human interest story.
— David Gorski, MD, PhD (@gorskon) March 31, 2020
It’s quite ironic that while we await a future COVID-19 vaccine that’s probably still a year away, anti-vaxxers are already sowing the seeds of doubt by spreading vaccine conspiracy theories that are based on no facts and all fiction. Vaccines do not “endanger our children”, but instead protect people from dangerous diseases. While we await the development and release of this future COVID-19 vaccine, we might as well prepare everyone for it by reassuring everyone that vaccines are based on proven medical science, whereas these allegedly “safer vaccine alternatives” are based on nothing but pseudoscience, dogma, and greed.
If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health District, Washoe County Health District, Carson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ respective resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to national operations like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and local groups like Three Square.