GUWAHATI, March 18 - A wave of misinformation in the social media, especially through WhatsApp, on the coronavirus is turning out to be a greater danger than the infection itself.
From unverified home remedies to fake advisories like asking people to avoid foods such as ice cream and chicken, mobile phones are being flooded with misinformation, escalating anxiety among the people.
One rumour being circulated in WhatsApp since yesterday in Guwahati is that a positive case has been admitted at Guwahati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) after which �there has been a declaration by the Government of Assam for complete closedown of all public places� Government might instruct to close down everything in Assam for the next 15-29 days... so please keep adequate stock of food items and groceries at your home.�
The health department has rubbished the message and asked people not to believe in such falsities.
Another message asked people in Guwahati last night not to come out of their houses after 10 pm as there will be �spraying of medicine in the air in order to kill the COVID-19 virus�. The Guwahati Municipal Corporation said no such decision of �spraying medicine� has been taken.
One such message, claiming to be an advisory from UNICEF, adviced people to avoid ice creams and other cold foods. It also recommended frequent washing of clothes because �coronavirus when it falls on the fabric remains nine hours (sic)�.
Another recommended heavy Vitamin C intake, yet another message warned people �not hold your thirst because once your membrane in your throat is dried, the virus will invade into your body within 10 minutes.�
When contacted, Principal Secretary, Health, Samir Sinha said the government is issuing an advisory to the public discouraging rumour mongering.
According to Dr Raj Dutta, senior consultant (internal medicine and critical care) at Dispur Hospitals, two things are vital - hand hygiene and avoiding crowded places.
�Cures such as use of bleach, garlic and cocaine etc circulate in social media are unverified. The key is to maintain respiratory etiquettes and hygiene. One can get infected in two ways - direct touch or droplet infection. Also, a mask is important only for the sick person and the health care providers,� Dr Dutta added.
Dr D Patwari, consultant internal medicine and critical care at Hayat Hospital said at this time of crisis, people should not panic and react to rumours circulated in social media.
�Coronavirus cause mild symptoms in 80-85 per cent patients which can be treated at home and only 15-20 per cent patients require hospitalization. The person to person chain of transmission can only be broken if we use our common sense and maintain respiratory etiquette,� he said.
Dr Patwari said one should make sure to cover their mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and frequently wash hands at least for twenty seconds.
�One should also avoid public gathering and close contact with persons suspected with flu like symptoms and keep updated with government guidelines rather than responding to viral and fake news spreading in the social media like wild fire,� he added.