Contagious Lies: Fighting COVID-19 Fake News, PH Edition

In a global pandemic, being factually accurate and well-informed is just as important as washing your hands and staying at home.

This article focuses on the proliferation of COVID-19 fake cures in the Philippines and is updated regularly. You will also find a guide on how to properly verify information at the end of the article.

As COVID-19 continues its spread across the globe, keeping afloat means going online to connect, work, and do business. Yet, even as we struggle to deal with the effects of the novel coronavirus, online spaces remain unsafe from fake news and cures that could potentially harm unsuspecting individuals.

This is why we should be skeptical enough to check the truthfulness of the news on our feeds. We are responsible for the kind of information (or misinformation) that we share. In a global pandemic, being factually accurate and well-informed is just as important as washing your hands and staying at home. 

A study published in the journal Science Advances found that the elderly are the most susceptible to believing in fake news, mostly because they were not taught how to verify information online. This article will help you sift through the overwhelming amount of news so you can help keep yourself and your loved ones free from COVID-19 and misinformation. Keep yourself informed by following us for weekly updates!

Here are the top circulating fake news articles these past few weeks and their respective corrections:

Cup of lemon tea

Claim: Israel has zero deaths from COVID-19 because of a lemon and bicarbonate (a.k.a. baking soda) tea. The post claims that the mixture kills the virus by adjusting the immune system’s alkalinity. (Posted April 5, 2020)

Correction: Israel already had a death toll of 132 when the post appeared on April 5. Also, lemon and baking soda tea do not substantially change the body’s alkalinity since the body regulates this efficiently. In fact, drinking too much of either might cause gas and diarrhea. (Sources: Israel death toll; Lemon Bicarbonate)

Heavens Formula

Claim: When anointed on the head and said with a short prayer, Heaven’s Formula, a mix of coconut oil, crushed garlic, and calamansi, will prevent infection. (Posted April 2, 2020)

Correction: The World Health Organization and the Department of Health only promote 20-second hand washing, social distancing, and self-isolating as the best ways to prevent COVID-19 infections. Unlike the Heaven’s Formula, recommendations by the WHO and the DOH are scientifically proven. (Source: WHO guidelines)

Steam

Claim: Any form of steam therapy will kill the virus in the throat and upper respiratory area, thus preventing and curing COVID. (Posted March 31, 2020)

Correction: There are no known forms of steam therapy (inhalation or otherwise) proven to destroy the coronavirus. This might even introduce risks, like burns on the skin or inside the nose, if incorrectly done. (Source: Steam therapy)

Salt Gargle

Claim: Gargling with salt water or vinegar will prevent coronavirus infections. (Posted April 2, 2020)

Correction: There has been no evidence to show that a salt water or vinegar gargle is effective in eliminating the coronavirus. While salt water gargles have been proven to remedy sore throats, they do not prevent viruses from infecting you. (Source: Gargling for COVID)

Vitamin C

Claim: Alkaline or regular Vitamin C in megadoses will increase immune response and protect you from COVID. (Posted March 31, 2020)

Correction: Vitamin C in any form has not been proven to stop the coronavirus. Even in megadoses, Vitamin C will not drastically increase immune response against viruses and other diseases. The DOH recommends eating a well-balanced diet for a holistically improved immune response versus taking Vitamin C in megadoses. (Source: Vitamin C)

Avigan

Claim: AVIGAN, a flu medication from Japan, is a cure to COVID-19. (Posted March 30, 2020)

Correction: AVIGAN is an anti-influenza drug developed in Japan. While testing is being done to check AVIGAN’s effectiveness against COVID-19, there has been no official endorsement from the WHO, the FDA, or the DOH that it will cure COVID-19. (Source: AVIGAN for COVID)

Develop an eye against fake news

How do we know these claims are fake? We followed these steps to verify the information. You should too!

  • Exercise Skepticism when you hear or see new information
  • Understand the Misinformation Landscape
  • Be extra careful when you encounter emotional, divisive, or breaking news stories
  • Be gentle with each other 

Keeping clean and hygienic during these times is something you can do to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s as simple as washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, practicing physical distancing from others,  keeping yourself informed on fact-checked news, and refusing to share fake news or articles from dubious sources. Be especially wary of personal Facebook profiles or pages that do not have a track record of sharing verified news. 

Other tips from the Department of Health include avoiding touching your face (especially the eyes, nose, and mouth), coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue (and disposing of it immediately after), and constantly cleaning surfaces, especially those often touched—like tables, phones, computer keyboards, light switches, and door knobs.

The internet has made it easy for all of us to get accurate information on the coronavirus here and abroad. You can follow these sites: 

For more information about the novel coronavirus and how to stop its spread, watch these videos from the WHO, and the PCOO and DOH.

References:

False claim: baking soda and lemon juice can help prevent coronavirus infection. (2020, April 6). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-coronavirus-alkaline-idUSKBN20X2BV

False claim: Steam therapy kills coronavirus. (2020, March 30). Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-steam-kills-coronavirus-idUSKBN21H2LK

Fichera, A. (2020, March 16). Gargling Water With Salt Won't 'Eliminate' Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.factcheck.org/2020/03/gargling-water-with-salt-wont-eliminate-coronavirus/

Jin, C. H., & Parks, M. (2020, April 20). Comic: Fake News Can Be Deadly. Here's How To Spot It. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/04/17/837202898/comic-fake-news-can-be-deadly-heres-how-to-spot-it?

Lanese, N. (2020, March 10). Why vitamin C won't 'boost' your immune system against the coronavirus. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/coronavirus-vitamin-c-myth.html

McCurry, J. (2020, March 18). Japanese flu drug 'clearly effective' in treating coronavirus, says China. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/18/japanese-flu-drug-clearly-effective-in-treating-coronavirus-says-china

Myth busters. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters

Yemen has 1st confirmed coronavirus case, more than 10K in Israel. (2020, April 10). Retrieved from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/apr/10/war-ravaged-yemen-announces-1st-confirmed-coronavi/

Words by

John Matthew Ang

Artworks by

EJ Dalupang

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