World

People dying from fake virus treatments

Fake cures include cocaine and toxic alcohol that killed 210 in Iran

HONG KONG: From being duped into taking poisonous "cures", to avoiding life-saving medication, people are suffering devastating impacts of a deluge of online virus misinformation.

With the coronavirus killing more than 20,000 people, rumours and false claims are fuelling confusion and deepening the misery.

The effects can be tragic - in Iran, one of the hardest-hit countries, at least 210 people died from drinking toxic alcohol after claims circulated online that it could treat or ward off Covid-19, the official Irna news agency reported.

Dangerous fake cures debunked by AFP include consuming volcanic ash and fighting infection with UV lamps or chlorine disinfectants, which health authorities say can harm the body if used incorrectly.

Another alleged remedy, according to misleading social media posts, is drinking silver particles in liquid, known as colloidal silver.

The side effects of taking colloidal silver can include a bluish-grey skin discoloration and poor absorption of some medicines including antibiotics, according to the US National Institutes of Health.

SOLD OUT

But this has not put some people off. An Australian man who said he regularly buys the concoction said it had "sold out in my town ... but before the virus, I could always get some".

Cocaine and bleach-like solutions are also among the risky fake cures touted online.

"No, cocaine does not protect against Covid-19," the French government tweeted.

As panic buying leaves supermarket shelves empty globally, some Indian traders and farmers have had the opposite problem - people shunning their products due to false information.

Retailers in Delhi had stocked up on Chinese-made goods such as toy guns, wigs and other colourful accessories ahead of Holi festival earlier this month.

But "misinformation about Chinese products - they might transmit coronavirus - caused a downfall in sales of Holi goods.

"We witnessed a reduction in sales of around 40 per cent compared to the previous year", said Mr Vipin Nijhawan from the Toy Association of India.

The World Health Organisation has said the virus does not last long on inanimate surfaces, so it is unlikely imported goods would remain infectious even if contaminated.

Confusion has been sparked by letters and theoretical papers published in scientific journals about whether some types of heart medication can raise the chance of developing a serious form of Covid-19.

This prompted health authorities across Europe and America to advise heart patients - already more at-risk for the disease - to keep taking their drugs.

A man died in the US from taking a form of chloroquine - hailed by US President Donald Trump as a potential "gift from God" remedy.

He took a form of the drug that his wife had used to treat her pet fish.

Banner Health, a non-profit healthcare provider based in Phoenix, said on its website that "a man has died and his wife is under critical care after the couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, an additive commonly used at aquariums to clean fish tanks". - AFP

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