There has been an avalanche of fake news hitting social media platforms since the coronavirus began. Recently one such ‘must listen’, purportedly by a nurse, appeared on WhatsApp. Many people on my Whatsapp groups expressed relief after listening to her considerably long voice note. The nurse spoke in a very calm voice and appeared to know a lot about how the virus operates, and indeed about how hospitals are run. The problem with her lecture though, as reassuring as it seemed, was that it was a concoction of truths, lies, and half-truths. For your average anxious listener, this mix could prove to be extremely dangerous.
The ‘nurse’ explained what a coronavirus was, giving the examples of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV), amongst others, thus lending credibility to her voice note. She added that she is on the Covid Response Team of the hospital she works at, without having named the hospital, and that her team had been discussing the deaths at this (mysterious) hospital. The ‘nurse’ then ruled out hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, as a potentially fatal comorbidity in coronavirus victims. She went to lengths to explain how the coronavirus could cause blood to clot, completely bypassing the fact that blood clotting is what puts hypertensives who have contracted the virus, at risk of stroke. Health24 last month reported, in regard to hypertension: According to new research published in the European Heart Journal, patients with the condition have a double risk of dying from Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, than patients without it. The National Institute of Communicable Disease’s website reads: The elderly and individuals with co-morbidities, such as heart disease (including high blood pressure), have been found to be at a higher risk of severe illness and mortality associated with COVID-19.
The unnamed speaker goes on to say, the virus “doesn’t do anything to your cardiac system, not unless you have congestive cardiac failure already, and congestive cardiac failure people are always over the age of 65, 70.” According to emory.healthcare.org congestive heart failure ‘affects people of all ages, from children and young adults to the middle-aged and the elderly. Almost 1.4 million persons with CHF are under 60 years of age. Everything the ‘nurse’ said sounded believable, however, as she added in a sprinkling of the real danger posed by a coronavirus infection to renal and diabetic patients.
The speaker in the voice note further states that ‘young people have a 100 percent chance of surviving COVID’, and that she is of the opinion that ‘so many of us have already had COVID and we did not even know it.’ She compared the coronavirus to the common cold, saying the virus is shed over time, and as an analogy, talked about how a cold is shed over two weeks. While two weeks is the accepted general norm for a person in quarantine, due to a coronavirus infection, the virility of the novel coronavirus has been undermined by her analogy. When a person has a cold, according to this ‘nurse’, “you take something for your throat, you take panado for your fever, you take cough medicine. In about two, three days you feel better, but the bronchitis or the pneumonia is still there. But you are recovering. And then you go back to work, and you carry on in circulation. As you shed the virus you are not infectious anymore.” Just imagine the implications of taking the speaker’s advice seriously. I dread to think of the damage this woman has done to the concept of social distancing, and to the ‘Stay Home’ campaign, especially at a time when the virus in South Africa is still to hit it’s peak, a time when all South Africans personally know infected people among friends and family, a time when lives are being lost daily to the virus, and hospitals are threatening to collapse under the strain of rapidly increasing infection rates. Claiming to be a nurse, there was certainly a flagrant disregard of the horrendous strain, and enormous potential risk to their lives that ‘other’ nurses and doctors are currently facing.
The ‘nurse’ further talks about how diabetics without renal failure survive. Having trawled through many sites on the topic, this assertion is false can be safely trashed too. Even without having had renal failure ever, diabetics are an at-risk group.
In her voice note, the ‘nurse’ says, quite correctly, that we should take care of our elderly, and of those with co-morbidities. However, in the same message she says that we should pray that we become infected with the coronavirus, so that we can get over it and ‘move on with life’. This advice while the world is being encouraged to avoid contracting the virus at all, and passing it on, could prove lethal for so many.
Lastly, the advocation of the use of medication in the voice note seemed a little severe. While the ‘nurse’ advocates the use of Dispirin, for everyone, as a means of keeping clotting at bay, aspirin is not recommended for people suffering from ulcers, and consistent use of analgesics takes a toll even on healthy kidneys. Addiction is also a danger emerging from the consistent use of analgesics. While aspirin could be a good option for people who have already contracted the virus, as it aids in preventing blood from clotting, it certainly cannot be recommended for everyday use. The ‘nurse’ also recommends steroids, even for people who are not critically ill with COVID19. Sciencemag.org reads: steroid(s) reduced deaths by one-third in patients already on ventilators and by one-fifth in patients receiving supplemental oxygen. Researchers did not find any benefit in patients not receiving respiratory support.
While, there were elements of truth in the voice note, and the speaker could have been a nurse, it is important to verify all posts on social media sites. In times such as we are living in, incorrect information acted upon, could well amount to ‘a miss is as good as a mile’.
Umm Muhammed Umar