Pedestrians wearing face masks cross a road in Hong Kong on January 27, 2020 (AFP / Anthony Wallace)

Health authorities did not say drinking water will prevent coronavirus

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Facebook posts shared thousands of times in various countries claim that drinking water can prevent coronavirus. Many posts present the information as “health bulletins” from the officials in Canada or the Philippines. However, authorities have issued no such advice.

The posts have been shared thousands of times on Facebook -- we’ve archived some of them here, here and here.

“DOH Health Bulletin to the Public”, reads one post, which claims to represent a medical laboratory in the Philippines, referring to the country’s Department of Health.

“Canadian Department of Health Bulletin. Pls tell ur families, relatives and friends,” reads another post on a Facebook page called “Dr. Kiddy”, which offers “tips about kids health”.

The posts go on to recommend drinking warm water to prevent coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of people and spread around the world since emerging in a Chinese market at the end of last year.

“The prevention method now is to keep your throat moist, do not let your throat dry up”, read the posts, which all resemble each other almost word for word.

“Drink 50-80cc warm water, 30-50cc for kids, according to age. Every time you feel your throat is dry, do not wait, keep water in hand”, they say.

A screenshot of a false Facebook post, taken on February 4, 2020

Similar advice has been circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook in India, purportedly issued by the country’s health ministry, India Today reported last week.

Although drinking water is generally regarded as a good thing for health, AFP found no evidence that authorities have recommended it as a safeguard against coronavirus.

Health Canada -- the country’s public health service -- told AFP they did not issue the advice in the Facebook posts. They offer tips on their website on preventing coronavirus infection, but they do not mention drinking water.

AFP found no trace of the advice on the Philippines’ health department website, including on an information page on coronavirus. The website issues a warning urging the public to “source information only from official DOH channels and social media accounts”.

The World Health Organization’s advice on limiting the risk of infection includes frequently washing hands, coughing and sneezing into a tissue and avoiding close contact with anyone who has fever and cough.

As well as drinking water, the Facebook posts give other recommendations, such as staying away from crowded places “till end of March”. However, scientists have not been able to predict how long the epidemic will last.

The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic -- which killed 774 after emerging in Guangdong in southern China in 2002 -- was stemmed after several months thanks to strict hygiene controls and a global mobilisation.

NOTE: This article was translated from French by Charlotte Mason.

Julie Charpentrat