Since Nigeria recorded its index case of coronavirus in February, 2020, there have been several claims of home remedies that can cure the virus.
These claims are unverified as COVID-19 is a new strain of virus that has not been experienced before, but then, people eagerly embraced them as they were desperate for remedy and would embrace any that comes their way.
The reaction of most is similar to how many Nigerians embraced untested remedies for the Ebola virus some years ago. One of those is the prescription by a monarch, Attah of Igala, Idakwo Michael Ameh Oboni, who recommended salt solution as a magical vaccine against the virus.
The prescription quickly went viral on social media and an other text messaging platforms. This resulted in the death of two Nigerians and, at least, 20 were hospitalised for excessive salt intake.
Although social media has a tremendous impact on the Nigerian public’s collective perception, knowledge, and attitude about issues like this, sometimes, it does harm by triggering unjustified alarms, spreading fears, offering unscientific cures, and dismissal of medical advice.
Dealing with cases like this, only information verified by authorities like Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the World Health Organization(WHO), National Primary Health Care Development Agency, etc. are to be trusted.
Margaret Bolarinwa, a septuagenarian woman, said she suffered the harsh side effects of garlic in the heat of coronavirus spread.
She had gotten a forwarded message on WhatsApp that garlic cures and prevents one from contracting the virus during the lockdown in April 2020.
“I take garlic normally because I am a BP patient, but then, I increased the intake since it is said that it cures the deadly virus.
“I take it first thing in the morning, during the day, and also at night.
“I started noticing that I get weak quickly, I urinate frequently and feel nauseous. If you know me very well, I am not one that just sits down, I am very agile.
“One of the times, I went to urinate in the bathroom and I almost passed out, it was then I checked my BP and noticed it was low! I then realised I had taken things too far with garlic.”
Part of the precautions people took against contracting the virus was taking different supplements to strengthen their immune system.
Felicia Waziri and her sister Keziah narrated their ordeal with Vitamin C.
Ms Waziri said there has been a history of ulcer ailment in their family and her sister has been managing her own, even though she (Felicia) has never felt it before.
“But during the lockdown, my uncle sent us a message on WhatsApp advising a number of immunity drugs and vitamins to protect against COVID, part of it was Vitamin C.
“Everyone in the house started using it, it was my sister that first complained of this serious stomach ache, we didn’t take her seriously until I got my attack. I was too reluctant to go to the hospital then for fear of getting infected but when the pain increased I went.
“I was then diagnosed and it was confirmed to be an ulcer, the doctor asked for the drugs I have been taking and advised that I drop the vitamin C immediately,” she said.
Ms Keziah said even though she had been managing her ulcer before then, the pain from the stomach cramps became intense
“I have been able to manage my ulcer to the point where I don’t need to feel pain frequently but during that period, I cry like a baby. I have stopped using all the supplements we bought then, and the pain has reduced unlike before” she said.
Also, Adamu Mahmud narrated how he experienced constant heartburn with the use of lemon, ginger, and garlic.
This combination is part of the “home remedy” being rumored on social media for COVID -19.
“My heartburn no get part two,” Mr Mahmud said lightly in Pidgin English.
“It was so discomforting that sometimes I could not sleep. It was until I traced back the genesis that I then stopped taking the mixture.
“Since then I have been okay. All these self-medications can kill,” he said.
Misinformation as tool of health problems
In trying to prevent or cure the virus, several claims could be considered dangerous because it has to do with ingestion. It ranges from taking natural herbs like garlic and ginger to taking alcohol and even ethanol.
Yes, some of these may be safe to take, especially the natural herbs, but in the event of overdose, there have been documented long-term health issues associated with it.
Claim 1: Eating garlic will cure COVID 19
Sylvie Briand, the director in the Department of Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness, said this to be false.
Her verification can be relied upon because she and her team in WHO track several dangerous and infectious pathogens around the globe including COVID -19.
She said the abuse of garlic intake is not good for the health while expecting it to cure the disease.
“Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties. However, no evidence from the current outbreak eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus,” she said.
Claim 2: Taking Alcohol to kill the virus
Verification: Ms Briand said drinking alcohol does not cure or prevent COVID-19 infection
“The virus is not sensitive to the alcohol we drink but maybe people are confused because they see that we use hydroalcoholic gel to wash our hands but in reality, the alcohol that is in the hydroalcoholic gel is much more concentrated and this is certainly not something you can drink, otherwise you will have a serious side effect
Claim 3: Taking lemon, ginger, and honey
Verification: WHO has clarified that these may make one feel better during the common cold or the flu which are part of the symptoms of the virus, but are not a cure for COVID- 19.
At a press conference in Geneva, Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, advised that people can take lemon, ginger, and honey if it works as a remedy for flu or cold.
“But please, let us avoid making assumptions without evidence that certain things can cure COVID-19. At the moment there is no proven therapy for COVID-19”.
Claim 4: COVID-19 can be treated with antibiotics
Verification: Antibiotics work only against bacteria, not viruses.
COVID-19 is caused by a virus, and therefore antibiotics should not be used for prevention or treatment.
However, if you are hospitalised for COVID-19, you may receive antibiotics because bacterial co-infection is possible.
Claim 5: Drinking methanol, ethanol, or bleach
Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are poisons. Drinking them can lead to disability and death. Methanol, ethanol, and bleach are sometimes used in cleaning products to kill the virus on surfaces – however, you should never drink them. They will not kill the virus in your body and they will harm your internal organs.
Between February 20 and April 7, Aljazeera reported that 728 Iranians died after ingesting toxic methanol, erroneously thinking it can cure the new coronavirus.
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