Debunking coronavirus myths: Sesame oil doesn’t help, neither does holy basil

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The appearance of the coronavirus, which has infected 14,000 people and killed more than 300 since it emerged in the city of Wuhan in China, has spawned its own myths about how the disease can be treated or avoided.

Amid the vacuum created by the lack of a cure or a vaccine, people are embracing alternative prevention methods. These are not necessarily approved by medical regulators; some of them rooted in cultural traditions, others arise from speculation.


• Taking antibiotics can prevent or treat coronavirus.

False. Antibiotics treat bacterial infections, while coronavirus, as its name suggests is a virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

• Vaccines against pneumonia protect you against coronavirus

False. The virus is new and different. It needs its own vaccine, WHO says.

• Putting on, or eating, sesame oil blocks the coronavirus from entering the body

False. “Sesame oil is delicious but it does not kill coronavirus,” WHO says.

• Ginger, holy basil, to onions

India’s government suggested a traditional concoction that includes ginger and holy basil as virus protection. While in Myanmar, a Facebook user wrote a widely-read tribute to onions as a way to prevent transmission of the coronavirus, which the chief minister of Tanintharyi Division, U Myint Mg, shared on his Facebook page. “The Chinese government has announced that people should consume and have on hand as many onions as they can,” the post read, with no supporting scientific evidence.

While some people are looking for a cure, Dr. Rebecca Fischer of Texas A&M School of Public Health’s Epidemiology & Biostatistics department, told Al Arabiya English: “There are no known effective uses of any agents right now against coronavirus and this would include naturopathy or homoeopathy remedies as well as clinical medicine agents.”

• Wearing a mask prevents infection

The Chinese authorities recommended people wear masks since it has the highest level of concentration when it comes to infection cases. However, in other countries where the number of cases is limited to a handful, there is no such advice. Masks are useful if you are already infected with a respiratory disease and want to reduce the risk of spread to others, or if you’re working in a hospital and are in contact with people who have respiratory problems.

The WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) do not include wearing masks as preventative measures. Health experts pointed out that surgical masks usually found at pharmacies protect the wearer against large droplets or splashes of bodily and infected fluids from others, according to the CDC. However, wearing surgical masks does not prevent a person from inhaling smaller airborne particles; they are not considered respiratory protection by the CDC. Surgical masks are also loose fitting, and when the wearer inhales, there is potential for particles to leak in or out of the sides.

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