A woman looks at a phone at Incheon international airport on December 29, 2020, amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. (AFP / Ed Jones)

South Korean Facebook users share false Covid-19 prevention tips

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Facebook users in South Korea have shared a list of purported Covid-19 prevention tips, which they claim was issued by the “Samsung Alternative Medicine Institute”. The claims are false: the purported remedies are not proven treatments for Covid-19, according to health experts. There is no evidence the “Samsung Alternative Medicine Institute” exists. Separately, the Samsung Medical Center, an affiliate of Samsung Group, said it had not issued the purported tips.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on April 23, 2021.

“Please read this… here is a list of Covid-19 prevention measures recommended by medical doctors,” the Korean-language claim reads in part.

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post, taken on April 22, 2021.

The lengthy post includes eight purported tips to prevent Covid-19, for which it credits the “Samsung Alternative Medicine Institute”.

“Drink hot beverage, tea, soup, water as much as you can.

“Wash your mouth with salt water, vinegar and lemon water every day… it can prevent the virus from moving down to your lung.

“Covid-19 virus stays for at least 9 days on inanimate surfaces. So please be extra careful when you touch something.

“Increase intake of Zinc. Pets don't spread Covid-19 virus.

“Avoid cold food such as ice cream. Covid-19 virus stays 3 to 4 days on your throat before reaching your lungs. Drinking hot beverages can stop this. 

“You can tell if you are infected with Covid-19 by holding your breath for 10 seconds.”

Identical claims have been shared on Facebook here, here and here.

The claims, however, are false.

Keyword searches on Google and South Korean search engine Naver found no evidence that the “Samsung Alternative Medicine Institute” exists.

Samsung Medical Center, an affiliate of South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group, said it had not issued the purported tips.

“We have nothing to do with the list and the institute cited in the social media claim,” an official at the centre’s communication department told AFP during a phone interview on April 21, 2021.

Hot liquids

There is no evidence that drinking hot or cold water can prevent infection from Covid-19, health experts say.

Brandon Brown, a professor at the University of California Riverside’s Center for Healthy Communities, said by email there was “no need to change the temperature of your drinking water” to avoid infection.

Jayaruwan Bandara, director of the Sri Lanka Medical Research Institute, said there was no proof that drinking tea can ward off the virus.

“[Drinking tea] cannot be touted as a preventive measure or a treatment in the case of Covid-19,” he told AFP by phone.

Gargling water

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s recommendations, as well as those of health authorities in the United States, Canada, the UK and Australia, do not recommend gargling water to prevent Covid-19.

The WHO says here on its website that some traditional or home remedies can “alleviate symptoms” of Covid-19, although “there is no evidence that current medicine can prevent or cure the disease”.

Surface transmission

The risk of surface transmission of Covid-19 is low, according to the WHO.

WHO’s regional office in India said the virus does not survive long on surfaces or inanimate objects.

“Research as far as we know seems to indicate that the virus does not survive for very long on objects,” the WHO's representative for India told AFP by phone in February 2020.

Zinc supplement

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) said there is insufficient data for its Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel to recommend for or against the use of zinc for treating Covid-19.

“The Panel recommends against using zinc supplementation above the recommended dietary allowance for the prevention of COVID-19, except in a clinical trial,” NIH said in its latest update for the Covid-19 Treatment Guidelines on April 21, 2021.

A small study published in JAMA Network Open found consuming high doses of zinc and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) was not associated with improvement in Covid-19 infections, the University of Minnesota said here on its website.

Pet claim 

As of March 25, 2021, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on its website: “At this time, there is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people.”

A WHO spokesperson told AFP by email in July 2020 said there was no reason for people to apply prevention measures to their pets as the virus “spreads primarily through human-to-human transmission”.

Cold food

AFP previously debunked similar claims that the United Nations’ children’s fund UNICEF advised the public to avoid eating cold foods. The organisation rejected the rumours in a statement.

“A recent erroneous online message circulating in several languages around the world and purporting to be a UNICEF communication appears to indicate, among other things, that avoiding ice cream and other cold foods can help prevent the onset of the disease,” it said. “This is, of course, wholly untrue.”

Breath test

The WHO previously told AFP Fact Check that holding your breath “does not tell you if you have Covid-19”.

Dr Peter Waweru, a pulmonologist in Nairobi, Kenya, also dismissed the claim.

“Breathing cannot be used to test COVID-19,” he said. “The lungs can have numerous infections and a breathing test is not sufficient to determine whether one has Covid-19 or not.”