12 biggest coronavirus myths, busted

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 17 April 2020

To reduce the spread of misinformation, we’re busting the top coronavirus myths.

It’s not only infections that go viral. Myths and false coronavirus remedies are spreading fast across the globe and pose a real risk to public and individual health and safety. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has labelled it an “infodemic” – an overload of misinformation from dubious sources spread through rumour, social media and dodgy websites. 

When seeking information on COVID-19, it is important to rely only on trusted and authoritative sources such as the WHO or Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services. 

WHO advises that to date there is no proven cure for COVID-19. The best prevention is maintaining strict personal hygiene by washing hands thoroughly and frequently with warm water and soap for 20 to 30 seconds, avoiding touching your face, and maintaining at least 1.5 metres’ distance from other people. Critically, if you are feeling unwell, stay at home to avoid infecting others. 

Woman wearing face mask looking at phone


12 most common coronavirus myths and the truth behind them


Only old people get really sick from COVID-19

False. While it is true that older people and those with underlying health issues are particularly vulnerable, coronavirus poses a serious health threat to people of all ages. Victoria’s chief health officer Dr Brett Sutton says: “You can be in your 20s, 30s, 40s and require ICU and potentially die.” He points out that a man in his 30s is currently in intensive care in a Victorian hospital.

Eating garlic will cure coronavirus

False. The WHO says that while it is “a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties”, there's no evidence that eating garlic can protect people from the new coronavirus.

Drinking water every 15 minutes will flush out the infection

False. One Facebook post, copied and shared around the globe, quotes a “Japanese doctor” who recommends drinking water every 15 minutes to flush out any virus that might have entered the mouth.

Health authorities say there is no evidence that you can wash a respiratory virus down into your stomach and kill it. Infections like coronaviruses enter the body via the respiratory tract when you breathe in. Some might go into your mouth, but even constantly drinking water isn’t going to prevent you from catching the virus. Still, drinking water and staying hydrated is generally good medical advice. 

Gargling with essential oils, alcohol or even bleach will kill the virus

False. While some of these substances may kill the virus on a surface such as stainless steel, when the virus enters your body it introduces genetic material. The only way to rid yourself of infection is to get rid of the cell itself. 

Besides, gargling with these substances could cause other harm, particularly in the case of bleach, which can damage internal organs if swallowed.  

Blood pressure medications worsen the illness

False. No one should stop taking any prescribed medication unless advised by their doctor. There has been speculation that some blood-pressure medications that target particular proteins might worsen the infection because the virus also targets that protein. In response, the European Society of Cardiology has issued a strongly worded statement saying there’s no evidence to support these concerns, and potential for serious harm if people stop taking their blood-pressure medication. 

Rinsing your nose with saline helps prevent infection

False. The WHO says while there is limited evidence that regularly rinsing your nose with saline can help people recover more quickly from the common cold, there is no evidence that it has any effect on the new coronavirus.  

Taking a hot bath will kill the virus

False. A hot bath will not protect against COVID-19 because your normal body temperature remains around 36.5°C to 37°C, regardless of the temperature of your bath or shower. WHO repeats that the best protection is frequently cleaning your hands to eliminate viruses that may be on your hands, and avoiding infection that could occur when you touch your eyes, mouth or nose. 

Spraying yourself with alcohol or chlorine will kill the virus

False. While alcohol (of at least 40 per cent proof) and chlorine are effective in disinfecting surfaces, spraying yourself with either compound will not kill viruses that have already entered your body. In fact, it may be harmful to mucous membranes in the nose and mouth.  

5G technology can spread the virus

False. Conspiracy theories claiming 5G suppresses the immune system or lets viruses communicate with each other through radio waves have been widely condemned by the scientific community and others. The Australian chief medical officer Brendan Murphy says 5G is safe and does not pose a health risk. "This position is supported by health authorities in Australia – such as the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency – and around the world, such as the World Health Organisation," he says.

Hand dryers will kill the virus

False. After washing your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water, the best way to dry your hands is with a disposable paper towel. Hand dryers will not kill the virus and there is some suggestion the force of air may even help spread pathogens. 

You can get infected from a mosquito bite

False. WHO says there is no information or evidence to suggest that the new coronavirus can be transmitted by mosquito bites. This is a respiratory virus which spreads primarily through droplets generated when an infected person coughs or sneezes, or by touching contaminated surfaces.

You can catch coronavirus from your pet

False. The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services says there is no evidence that pets or any other animals in Australia are a source of infection or have become ill with COVID-19.