Taiwan experts debunk online rumors about Wuhan virus

Wrong information about Wuhan virus spreads on the internet: 2019-nCoV equal to SARI, diluted saltwater can eliminate virus

Saline water will not help sterilize mouth (Getty Image)

Saline water will not help sterilize mouth (Getty Image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – As the epidemic of the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) reaches a peak, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns in a press release on Jan. 25 that the spread of misleading information on social media is becoming an obstacle to public health.

The main inaccurate information is a rumor that the Wuhan pneumonia has now been officially classified as SARI, and that SARI is a superior version of SARS. According to this gossip, no effective drugs exist to cure the infection, though steroids can be used to prolong the lives of patients.

Other falsehoods in circulation include the advice that rinsing the pharynx with diluted salt water and maintaining home temperatures above 20 C will help to kill coronaviruses.

To clarify, the CDC pointed out that SARI (severe acute respiratory infection) is in fact a common term used to refer to severe pneumonia brought on by various coronaviruses but that it is not specific to the pneumonia originating from Wuhan. The provisional name given by the WHO for the current novel coronavirus is 2019-nCoV.

Director of the Department of Pediatrics, Huang Li-min (黃立民), told Taiwan FactCheck Center (TFC) that effective drugs to treat the 2019-nCoV infection do not exist, and that it is unheard of to use steroids in this manner. In Taiwan, hospitals offer supportive treatments, such as providing oxygen and monitoring blood pressure, in order to assist patients in recovering their immune systems.

Wu Hong-yi (吳弘毅), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Veterinary Pathobiology at National Chung Hsing University, also refutes the possibility of using low-density saltwater to sterilize the mouth; what is worse, saline solution might even create a favorable environment for coronaviruses.

"The argument in favor of turning on heaters to kill the coronaviruses is also unconvincing," Wu said. Heaters usually keep house temperatures at around 20 C - 30 C, in which case viruses can still survive. If viruses exist in a house, insulating rooms to prevent heat loss will only increase the chances of infection – circulating the indoor air is a wiser option.