The number of COVID-19 infections worldwide has breached the 10 million mark as scientists double efforts to develop a vaccine.
Last week, South Africa began human trials of a vaccine to cure the coronavirus. However, fear and anxiety over the spread of the novel virus are driving people to search for their own “cures”, however fake, irrational and dangerous it may be.
Scientists around the world are racing against the clock in a bid to find a cure for COVID-19. But, on the ground, ordinary citizens, who are in a state of panic, are also looking for the antidote; sometimes to their detriment.
Six people from Estcourt, in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, were hospitalised for poisoning after they consumed cattle deworming medicine with the belief that it would prevent them from getting COVID-19.
Kwa-Zulu Private Ambulance Service spokesperson Craig Botha says they have received a few reports of people experimenting with various substances in the hope of protecting themselves from COVID-19.
“There were six patients that were in critical condition after ingesting a cattle deworming medication. They had been told by a person that they trust that this would be a cure to COVID-19. The number of cases that we have experienced where people are trying different things to cure is very minimal; I think maybe this is the second case we have dealt with. We have heard of a few reports; Dettol being one of them, malaria tablets been another one of them.”
Chairperson of the KZN Doctor’s Healthcare Coalition, Professor Morgan Chetty, says people could be going to these extremes because of fear and anxiety, fuelled by fake news on social media.
“We are sitting in an environment of total uncertainty. There is a lot of fear, there is a lot of anxiety and there is a lot of fake news that is circulating. I made it very clear, there is no medication to date that is available to treat COVID-19. There is no medication at all.”
But it is not just household detergents and cattle medication that people are trying.
CEO of Independent Community Pharmacy Association, Jackie Maimin, says they have been receiving reports of people stockpiling what they think is the magic potion to cure COVID-19, dexamethasone.
In the video below, Dr Zweli Mkhize talks about the use of dexamethasone to treat COVID-19 patients.
“A lot of people think dexamethasone, ‘I must get some and I can start taking it to prevent COVID-19.’ Dexamethasone cannot prevent infection from anything, least of all COVID-19. It is not a medicine which can prevent COVID-19. In fact, if you take it while you are well, you could be doing yourself a lot of harm because if you take it when you are well, you actually lower our immune response and by lowering your immune response, you actually make yourself more susceptible.”
Maimin says in the fight against COVID-19, our bodies are our best hope. “We currently do not have anything to prevent COVID-19 and we have nothing to actually treat or to kill the virus, except our own bodies. That’s why it is so important that we try and prevent infection and that we keep our immune systems in tip-top condition. We need to look after ourselves. We need to get enough sleep. We need to eat good food, lots of fruits and veggies, get some exercise and if you are feeling a little bit down, get yourself a good multivitamin and that is how you are going to keep that immune system in its best condition.”
Professor Chetty also says that the best prevention is to ensure the new norm is practiced at all times.
“We can only do one thing and that is stop the transmission of the virus by social distancing, using a mask, not going into the public space. But the message I want to give is that there is no medication that is available to treat COVID-19 virus itself.”
While the search for a vaccine is still underway, consumers are urged to remain calm and that prevention is better than cure.