From kissing the mezuzah to Ashkenazi immunity: Coronavirus myths and facts

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From kissing the mezuzah to Ashkenazi immunity: Coronavirus myths and facts

As the outbreak hits Jewish communities around the world, Jewish News doctor Dr Ellie Cannon sorts the wheat from the chaff.

Dr Ellie Cannon
Dr Ellie Cannon

As the coronavirus hits countries around the world, so has a flurry of bogus claims, spreading like wildfire on social media. Speaking to Jewish News on Wednesday, television’s top GP Dr Ellie Cannon fact-checks the most widespread advice about Covid-19.

Claim: ‘Ashkenazi Jews are less likely to contract the virus’

“I don’t think there is any evidence to say that any racial group is more likely than any other to catch coronavirus,” Dr Cannon said.

Claim: ‘You must stop kissing mezuzahs and Torahs to limit exposure’

“The measures that have been put in place by the United Synagogue are excellent. They’re an example of what we call social distancing, starting to prevent the contact between people which we know is how the virus spreads, and also to stop people touching mezuzahs and siddurim is a good idea for the same reason,” she said.

Claim: ‘Pets can be infected and spread the virus’

“There has been one case so far reported of a dog that was tested for coronavirus, and I don’t think from the experts this is thought to be an issue,” she said.

Claim: ‘Children under 10 are less likely to get Covid-19’

“The early data that has come from China, looking at the first few thousand cases appears to show that children under 10 are much less likely to get the virus, and are much less likely to get seriously ill with it. What we think may be the case is that children can pick up the virus but have a very mild form of it or may even have no symptoms at all, but the jury is still out,” she said.

“The best way to protect children is the same as for the rest of us, so thorough hand-washing for 20 seconds with soap and water. Make sure that surfaces are kept clean, particularly … door handles and the kitchen and the bathroom. Make sure that anybody who is coughing or sneezing is using a tissue that is then thrown away,” she added.

Claim: ‘Face masks don’t stop the virus’

“Face masks have no role in preventing you getting coronavirus, which the chief medical officer has been very clear on. The only people who may be instructed to wear a mask are those people who have a confirmed case of coronavirus, and they are told to wear it because it prevents them from spreading it to somebody else,” she said.

“In fact face masks encourage you to touch your face a lot more than you would normally, so it is possible that actually a face mask could make matters worse,” she added.

Claim: ‘Hand sanitisers don’t actually stop the virus’

“The best way to clean your hands is to wash them with soap … for 20 seconds. If hand-wash is not available then using hand sanitiser is a good interim measure,” she said.

Claim: ‘Vitamin C can boost your immune system against the virus’

“If there’s a cure, the chief medical officer or the chief scientific adviser will be announcing it, and so far no cure has been announced,” she said.

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