In early April, 12 people in a village in Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor district fell seriously ill and had to be hospitalised after they drank juice made of Datura seeds, believing a TikTok video, which claimed it will protect them from COVID-19.
In another incident, a pharmacist died after he drank a chemical preparation, which he thought would cure coronavirus.
That’s how fatal a forwarded WhatsApp message or a post on social media can be!
According to a study published in The American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, at least 800 people have died globally and over 5,800 people have been hospitalised due to unproven, unscientific claims of COVID cures and prevention.
The study, which was conducted between 31 December 2019 to 5 April 2020, also mentions that about 60 people developed complete blindness after consuming methanol, believing it was a cure for the novel coronavirus.
HOW HARMFUL IS HEALTH MISINFORMATION?
Doctors say that these messages create a false sense of security and can be dangerous.
Speaking to The Quint, Dr Sumit Ray, Head of Department, Critical Care Medicine at Holy Family Hospital said that these messages may or may not harm an individual but they can prompt a person to not follow the measures which will actually protect them.
““Social media messages about protecting yourself from coronavirus have ranged from stupid, to the hilarious to the downright dangerous. Though these may or may not harm you, but the fact is that they can give you a false sense of security and make you not do the things which can actually protect you from the infection.”” – Dr Sumit Ray, Head of Department, Critical Care Medicine, Holy Family Hospital
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE SHARING THESE MESSAGES?
These claims are not restricted to a few thousand users on social media.
In case of the coronavirus, they have been amplified by leaders in positions of power across the world.
US President Donald Trump said injecting people with disinfectants or exposure to sunlight could cure COVID-19
BJP Assam MLA Suman Haripriya said cow urine was a possible cure
Yoga guru Ramdev suggested applying mustard oil through the nostrils
And the pseudo doctors on WhatsApp suggested ways to self-diagnose COVID
All of these are unfounded claims that are not based on any scientific evidence.