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Coronavirus fake news has led to hundreds of deaths, according to a new study

Published on 13/08/20 at 10:31am
Photo by Axelle B

At least 800 people have died around the world from COVID-19 misinformation in the first three months of 2020, according to researchers.

The study was published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene on 10 August and says that about 5,800 people were admitted to hospital due to taking fake treatment and cures for coronavirus. Many people who were sick were following false advice that seemed credible. It told them to eat large amounts of garlic or a large number of vitamins to prevent them from being infected. Others were told to drink cow urine. All these had serious implications on people’s health. 

The 800 deaths largely came from people drinking methanol or alcohol-based cleaning products which were usually diluted with water. 

There is also the threat from fake or illicit drugs being sold as coronavirus cures or treatments. In Cameroon and Congo, five different types of falsified chloroquine tablets have appeared in recent months that either do not contain a high dose of its active ingredient or contain completely different ingredients. These fake medicines were identified by a research group from the Pharmaceutical Institute of the University of Tubingen. 

The analysis of the fake drugs showed some worrying findings. One sample of chloroquine showed that the active ingredient was too little to cure patients, but suitable enough to promote the development of chloroquine-resistant malaria parasites. Another sample of fake chloroquine tablets, found the main ingredient to be paracetamol, while three others had a large amount of the antibiotic metronidazole. It contained a far too small amount of the drug to be effective but enough to promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The World Health Organization said that social media is fuelling misinformation campaigns that are spreading faster than the pandemic. It is also creating worry that when a vaccine eventually becomes available, many will be refused to take it. America presently is rife with COVID-19 conspiracy theories and anti-vaccination groups. According to a YouGov poll in May, 28% of Americans believe Bill Gates wants to use vaccines to implant microchips in people, and this number was as high as 44% in Republican voters.

Conor Kavanagh

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