Health Claims - Fact Checked

  • Is COVID-19 caused by a bacterial infection?

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    • In May and June 2020, claims were circulated on social media that COVID-19 is a bacterial infection, not a viral infection.
    • Bacteria are different from viruses in many ways, and we often use different medicines and approaches to help people who have bacterial infections (for example, antibiotics) compared to viral infections (where antibiotics will not kill the virus).
    • COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a coronavirus (HSE, 2020).
    • Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which can cause illnesses in animals or humans.  In humans, coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (World Health Organization, 2020), and SARS-CoV-2 (also called COVID-19).
    • The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been carefully studied in laboratories all over the world. Scientists track the spread of the virus by comparing samples of COVID-19 genomes (the genetic material that the virus contains) in different parts of the world.
    • Although uncommon, some people who become ill with COVID-19 may develop a bacterial infection as a complication. This is called a secondary infection. In these cases, the use of antibiotics may be recommended by health care providers on a case to case basis (World Health Organization, 2020).
    • Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections (HSE, FDA, NHS, CDC) of any type, including SARS-CoV-2.  Antibiotics are effective for treating bacterial infections.
    • To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please continue to follow public health advice to maintain social distancing and wash your hands properly and often.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Eimear Morrissey, School of Medicine and School of Psychology, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frances Shiely, HRB Clinical Research Facility and the School of Public Health, UCC.
    • Evidence Advisor: Casey Donaghey, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Is thermal scanner technology effective in detecting COVID-19?

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    • There are claims on social media that thermal scanner technology (such as thermal scanners) is effective in detecting COVID-19. These claims have grown as the use of this technology has increased in places such as business and airports.
    • The World Health Organization has said that thermal scanners are not effective in detecting if a person has COVID- 19.
    • A viral test is the only way to detect if a person has COVID-19.
    • Thermal scanners are effective in detecting if a person has a fever (i.e. a higher than average body temperature).
    • A fever is one of the symptoms of COVID-19; however, there are many other possible causes of a fever.
    • If you have a fever or any other symptoms of COVID-19, you should self-isolate and phone your GP to discuss your symptoms and who will help you decide if you need a test for COVID-19.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Claire Beecher, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network & Evidence Synthesis Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Darren Dahly, Principal Statistician, HRB Clinical Research Facility, Cork, Ireland, and Senior Lecturer in Research Methods in the UCC School of Public Health.
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does disinfecting surfaces or objects prevent the spread of COVID-19?

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    • Images in the media of large-scale disinfection/sanitisation of public spaces across countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to an increased use of disinfectants/sanitisers.
    • The major transmission route for the COVID-19 virus is through droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by, or land on, others nearby and this is why following the advice on physical distancing is so important.  Droplets may also land on nearby surfaces that others then touch. So when people touch their eyes, nose or mouth after touching these surfaces, they can potentially become infected.
    • Although the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS CoV-2, is a new virus and we are still learning about how it behaves, there is evidence from other coronaviruses that is helpful in guiding advice about the use of cleaning products and disinfectants.
    • We are not certain how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces, but as a guide, a recent study found that the coronavirus can survive for up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel.
    • Common household disinfectants, including soap or diluted bleach solutions can effectively neutralise coronaviruses on indoor surfaces and objects.
    • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC in the United States released recommendations on cleaning and disinfection for households, specifically aimed at households with people who have been in contact with a person confirmed with COVID-19, or who have been infected with COVID-19.
      • Cleaning refers to removing of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
      • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.
    • The World Health Organization recommends that ‘High-touch surfaces’  in households – including door handles, kitchen and food preparation areas, countertops, bathroom surfaces, touchscreen personal devices and personal computer keyboards – should be prioritised when cleaning. They recommend that ‘surfaces should always be cleaned with soap and water or a detergent to remove organic matter first, followed by disinfection.’
    • The World Health Organization advice is to thoroughly wash your hands before and after shopping, and again after unpacking and storing your shopping.
    • To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please follow public health advice and wash your hands properly and often.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Sonja Khan, HRB Clinical Research Facility, University Hospital Galway and NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Maureen Kelly, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Casey Donaghey, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Are children at less risk of contracting COVID-19 than adults?

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    • As schools and childcare facilities prepare to re-open in some countries, scientists, policy-makers and the public have been wondering whether children are at the same risk of contracting (getting) COVID-19 as adults.
    • There is limited evidence available, but a review of 24 studies suggests that there are fewer recorded cases of children getting COVID-19 compared to adults, but this may be due to children often showing no or only mild symptoms. The review concluded that children are just as likely to contract COVID-19 as adults
    • A review of 7 studies suggests that children are not a major source of household transmission of COVID-19. This means that the vast majority of people who get COVID-19 get it from an adult.
    • This review also found one study that suggests that the transmission of COVID-19 in children at school is low. This means that a few cases of children passing COVID-19 to each other in school have been recorded. However, more studies are needed on this topic.
    • It is recommended that children and their caregivers follow the current recommendations to prevent COVID-19 including: washing your hands well and often; covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and then safely throw away any used tissue where others will not touch it. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Avoid shaking hands or hugging when saying hello and greeting other people. Practise social distancing, especially with those who might be unwell.

    Things to Remember

    • Just because something is associated with a better (or worse) outcome, that doesn’t mean that it causes the outcome.
    • If one study shows something, it does not mean that is the final answer.
    • Just because a claim is made by an expert or authority, you cannot be sure that it is trustworthy.

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Chris Noone, School of Psychology, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frank Moriarty,  Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times
  • Does drinking alcohol protect you against COVID-19?

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    • There are not many studies that examine the relationship specifically between alcohol consumption and COVID-19. The disease COVID-19 is caused by the virus Sars-CoV-2, a member of the coronavirus family. Coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections such as the common cold and more severe respiratory diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) states that ‘alcohol use, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system and thus reduces the ability to cope with infectious diseases’. The WHO also notes that alcohol consumption can make many things worse, including health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviours, mental health issues and violence, and advises that it is important to stay sober during this time “so that you can remain vigilant, act quickly and make decisions with a clear head, for yourself and others in your family and community”.
    • Problem drinking that becomes severe is given the medical diagnosis of “alcohol use disorder” or AUD. There may be particular problems for people with Alcohol Use Disorder during the pandemic, and they should seek support and treatment from their GP.
    • A recent study notes that when the immune system is compromised through alcohol-related damage in Alcohol Use Disorder patients, there is a susceptibility to pneumonia and to infectious diseases. This study recommends that reducing alcohol consumption may be critical during the pandemic.
    • The Central Statistics Office reported that a fifth of all adults in Ireland who drink alcohol are consuming more alcohol during the pandemic, while a smaller percentage report a decrease. The Social Impact of COVID-19 survey found the percentage of men increasing their alcohol intake was almost 21%, with just over 23% of women reporting a similar increase.
    • DRINKAWARE provides practical advice on alcohol and mental health, drinking at home and your immune system and links to support. Drinkaware note that “now more than ever, we all need to be more mindful of how much alcohol we are drinking and thinking about the impact this may be having on our mental and physical wellbeing”.
    • The WHO has developed a factsheet which provides guidance on alcohol use during the pandemic: “Alcohol and COVID-19: what you need to know”. It states that “in no way will consumption of alcohol protect you from COVID-19 or prevent you from being infected by it”.
    • The Department of Health states that ‘Heavy use of alcohol increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe complications of COVID-19.’ The HSE provides guidelines on measuring alcohol intake.
    • We should continue to follow public health guidance when meeting with small numbers of friends and families in the coming months: practise social distancing (remain 2 meters from people other than those you are living with), cough and sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow and wash hands properly and regularly.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Michelle Queally, Department of Economics, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Susan Smith, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and General Practitioner in Inchicore Family Doctors, Dublin.
    • Evidence Advisor: Casey Donaghey, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor:  Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Is the transmission of COVID-19 effected by hot or humid weather?

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    There are claims on social media that hot or humid weather can reduce the transmission of COVID-19. These claims have grown in Ireland, particularly with recent good weather.
    • The World Health Organization says that “exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25C degrees does not prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)”.
    • Cases of COVID-19 have been reported in countries that have hot and humid weather.
    • Although some studies have suggested that temperature may influence the transmission of COVID-19, the evidence overall is inconclusive.
    • COVID-19 transmission may have reduced as we experience warmer weather, but we are also seeing the effects of public isolation policy, reduced migration and other preventative measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene measures. It is far more likely that these measures are reducing the rate of transmission.
    • The current recommendations to prevent transmission of COVID 19 include: washing your hands well and often; covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and then safely throw away any used tissue where others will not touch it. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Avoid shaking hands or hugging when saying hello and greeting other people. Distance yourself at least 2 metres away from other people, especially those who might be unwell.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researchers: Claire Beecher, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network & Evidence Synthesis Ireland, NUI Galway; Fiona Quirke, HRB-NEPTuNE, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Imcha Mendinaro, UL Hospitals Group, Limerick.
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Can smoking prevent infection or lessen the symptoms of COVID-19?

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    • Currently, there is no clear evidence that smoking tobacco cigarettes can prevent infection or lessen the symptoms of COVID-19.
    • In April 2020, an online article sparked claims on social and mainstream media that smoking may prevent COVID-19. This article proposed that a study should be carried out to explore whether the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR), a receptor that nicotine (a substance found in tobacco) interacts with, has an effect on the COVID-19 virus.
    • There is currently no evidence that smoking can prevent or treat COVID-19 and the authors stress that smoking is a ‘serious danger for health’ and that nicotine is a ‘drug of abuse responsible for smoking addiction’.
    • The World Health Organization states that ‘COVID-19 is an infectious disease that primarily attacks the lungs. Smoking impairs lung function making it harder for the body to fight off coronaviruses and other diseases.’
    • The World Health Organization further states that the act of smoking itself, ‘increases the possibility of transmission of the virus from hand to mouth’ putting smokers at greater risk of catching COVID-19. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) reports that smokers are at ‘high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19’.
    • The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) warns that a COVID-19 infection may, in fact, be more severe in those who smoke and that smoking can reduce an individual’s ‘natural protection against infections, like coronavirus’. Similarly, the independent Scottish smoking charity, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), suggests that ‘it is highly likely that smoking contributes to the severity of a COVID-19 infection’.
    • The best way to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is by following the advice on physical distancing and frequent hand washing.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Hannah Delaney, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway & Trinity College Dublin.
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of Nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Dearbháile Morris, School of Medicine, and Centre for One Health, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • If I've already had COVID-19 am I immune to re-infection?

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    • “Corona”, in Latin, means crown. The coronavirus has an outer layer of protein covered in spikes, like a crown. These spikes help the virus attach itself to target cells in the body. When a virus-like SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) attacks, the body creates antibodies. Antibodies are molecules that our immune systems make in response to invading viruses and other things that cause disease, and some antibodies can help to provide protection or immunity against getting that infection again. Immunity can be strong or weak, short-lived or long-lasting.
    • There have been reports of suspected COVID-19 reinfection, where someone who had the virus is reported to have caught the virus a second time, however, no confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection has been reported by the World Health Organisation or by the Health Service Executive in Ireland.
      1. There is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest that the presence of antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), developed after initial infection, provides immunity to re-infection by this virus.
      2. There is no conclusive evidence about how long antibodies last for within an individual.
      3. There is no conclusive evidence about how effective these antibodies are at fighting the virus in a person.
    • It has been suggested that the detection of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 could serve as the basis for an “immunity passport”. This passport would be given to individuals who have had COVID-19, based on the assumption they would be immune to reinfection. In response, the World Health Organization issued a statement warning against issuing immunity passports, as there is no current evidence that people will be protected from a second infection, even if they have made antibodies to the virus.
    • A study of 175 patients with mild symptoms of COVID-19 in China found that most patients (70%) developed a strong antibody response; one in four (25%) developed a low antibody response; and 5% had no antibody response. However, we don’t know yet how long the antibodies last. In 2003, a study of patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which belongs to the family of coronaviruses, found that antibodies begin to decrease after about four months, but are present in most people for two years. By year three, up to a quarter of patients no longer had detectable antibodies, and after six years, almost no one
    • There are ongoing studies in the UK to explore whether we can generate long-lasting antibody responses to Sars-Cov-2.
    • The World Health Organisation state that many countries are now testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies at the population level or in specific groups, such as health workers, close contacts of known cases, or within households but advise these studies “are not designed to determine whether those people are immune to secondary infection”.
    • Until a vaccine or treatment is available, we should continue to follow public health guidance: practise social distancing (remain 2 metres from people other than those you live with), cough and sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your elbow and wash hands properly and regularly.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Michelle Queally, Department of Economics, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frances Shiely, HRB Clinical Research Facility and the School of Public Health, University College Cork.
    • Evidence Advisor: Casey Donaghey, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does 5G affect the spread of COVID-19?

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    • 5G is a new generation of mobile network technology that aims to deliver faster internet speeds and a more reliable data connection. It is transmitted over radio waves.
    • There are claims on social media that 5G is responsible for COVID-19. Other claims are that 5G weakens people’s immune systems, making them susceptible to COVID-19.
    • International organisations such as the WHO and the European Commission have stated that 5G mobile networks DO NOT spread COVID-19. These organisations have pointed out that COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks.
    • COVID-19 is an illness caused by a type of virus called a coronavirus.
    • Viruses do not travel on radio waves or mobile networks.
    • The major transmission route for COVID-19 is via droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by others, or they can land on people or surfaces nearby – this is why following the advice on physical distancing and frequent hand washing is so important.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr. Teresa Corbett, Research Fellow with CLAHRC Wessex at the University of Southampton.
    • Reviewed by: Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr. Darren Dahly, Principal Statistician, HRB Clinical Research Facility, Cork, Ireland, and Senior Lecturer in Research Methods in the UCC School of Public Health.
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.

    Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary

  • Does Chloroquine prevent or treat COVID-19?

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    • Currently, no drug has proven to be effective for preventing or treating COVID-19 (Centres for Disease Control 2020)
    • Chloroquine is a medicine that has been used for many years to treat malaria and rheumatoid conditions, such as arthritis. This drug can act against some viruses and has been used against HIV and influenza (Flu).
    • There have been suggestions in clinical circles, the media and social media that chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, which is less toxic than chloroquine, might be useful in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. However, there is very limited research on the use of these drugs in humans to prevent or treat COVID-19, and using these drugs has the potential to cause harmful side effects.
    • Research studies are currently underway to test and explore if chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine is safe and effective in treating COVID-19. These research studies are important, complex and take time to complete.
    • There are a number of randomised controlled trials ongoing and planned, most of which are in China. These studies will test the drugs at different doses and among people with different severity of disease.
    • The current evidence for the possibility that chloroquine might be helpful in the COVID-19 pandemic is unclear and The World Health Organization cautions against the use of unproven treatments. Further research is needed before clinicians or governments use these drugs for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Colette Kelly, Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Andrew Murphy, General Practice, NUI Galway, Health Research Board Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland
    • Evidence Advisor:  Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does the BCG (tuberculosis) Vaccine prevent infection or lessen the symptoms of COVID-19?

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    • The BCG vaccine is used to protect against tuberculosis (TB), and has been used medically since 1921.
    • A small number of independent studies have looked at the links between BCG vaccine rates and COVID-19 infections globally. These studies say that there are fewer cases of COVID-19 in countries where people receive the BCG vaccine. However, differences between countries such as the stage of the pandemic in each country, differences in testing rates for COVID-19, differences in demographics and economic and health service differences could influence these reported infection rates (World Health Organization 2020).
    • Two ongoing randomised controlled trials in Australia and the Netherlands are looking at the effects of BCG vaccination in frontline health-care workers who are caring for patients with COVID-19. When the results of these trials are available, the World Health Organization will evaluate the evidence they present.
    • In the absence of evidence, neither the WHO nor the HSE recommends the BCG vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19. To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please continue to follow public health advice to maintain social distancing and wash your hands properly and often.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Eimear Morrissey, School of Medicine and School of Psychology, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Professor Liam Glynn, Graduate Entry Medical, University of Limerick.
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Can wearing gloves prevent infection with COVID-19 in the general public?

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    • Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, there has been an increase in the use of disposable gloves or latex gloves in public spaces, such as shops and on public transport.
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend wearing gloves in public as an effective way of preventing COVID-19 infection.
    • The Health Service Executive (HSE) suggests washing your hands regularly offers more protection against contracting COVID-19 than wearing gloves does.
    • Gloves do not provide complete protection against contamination; pathogens (things that can cause an infection) can get onto your hands through defects in the glove or your hands can become contaminated when you remove the gloves (WHO-Glove-Use)
    • Using personal protective equipment such as gloves where they are not needed can result in shortages, and this will affect health-care workers who need to wear them.
    • Gloves are recommended to be worn for two main reasons:
      • To reduce the risk of health-care workers’ hands becoming contaminated with blood and other body fluids
      • To reduce the risk of germs spreading to the environment and from health-care workers to the patient and vice versa, as well as from one patient to another.
    • To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please follow public health advice and wash your hands properly and often.
    • The major transmission route for COVID-19 is via droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by, or land on others nearby – this is why following the advice on physical distancing is so important.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Sonja Khan, HRB Clinical Research Facility, University Hospital Galway and NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Professor Susan Smith, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and General Practitioner in Inchicore Family Doctors, Dublin.
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Can sunlight prevent or treat COVID-19?

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    There are claims on social media that sunlight can prevent or even treat COVID-19. These claims have grown in Ireland, particularly with recent good weather.
    • The World Health Organization says that “Exposing yourself to the sun or to temperatures higher than 25C degrees DOES NOT prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)”
    • COVID 19 has also been reported in countries that have hot and sunny weather.
    • Although some studies have suggested that temperature may influence transmission of the COVID-19 virus (how the virus spreads from one person to another), the evidence overall is inconclusive. COVID-19 virus transmission may have reduced as we experience warmer weather spells but we are also seeing the effects of public isolation policy, reduced migration and other preventative measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene measures. It is far more likely that these measures are reducing the rate of transmission.
    • Although there are some health benefits, prolonged sun exposure can be dangerous.
    • When spending time in the sun, individuals should follow public health advice.
    • The current recommendations to prevent COVID 19 include: washing your hands well and often; covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and then safely throw away any used tissue where others will not touch it. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces. Avoid shaking hands or hugging when saying hello and greeting other people. Distance yourself at least 2 metres away from other people, especially those who might be unwell.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Fiona Quirke, HRB-NEPTuNE, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr. Maureen Kelly, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Casey Donaghey, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does injecting disinfectant prevent or cure COVID-19?

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    • On Thursday 23rdApril 2020, the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, said at a press briefing: “And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute! And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning. Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds interesting to me.”
    • This statement followed a statement by Head of Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology, Bill Bryan, who presented research findings that bleach and other disinfectants killed the coronavirus when sprayed on surfaces.
    • No evidence exists to support the claim that injecting disinfectant into the human body prevents or treats COVID-19.
    • Do not under any circumstance inject, drink or inhale bleach or any other disinfectant into your body. These substances can be poisonous if taken into the body, and contact with them can irritate and damage the skin and eyes (WHO 2020).
    • People injecting bleach (by accident or deliberately) has resulted in them having a brain injury, blood clots, and kidney and liver damage.
    • Bleach and disinfectant should be used carefully to disinfect surfaces only. Remember to keep bleach and other disinfectants out of reach of children (WHO 2020) and protect your skin and eyes from bleach when you are using it to clean surfaces.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Nikita Burke, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Evidence Synthesis Ireland NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frank Moriarty,  Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Do Pets spread COVID-19?

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    There have been growing concerns among the public that COVID-19 could be spread from pets to humans. These fears were heightened recently when the media reported that some cats and dogs had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead researchers: Prof Dympna Casey , School of Nursing & Midwifery NUIG, Ms. Aisling Flynn, School of Nursing & Midwifery NUIG
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, School of nursing and Midwifery, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Susan Smith, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and General Practitioner in Inchicore Family Doctors, Dublin.
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does disinfecting food packaging prevent the spread of COVID-19?

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    • In mid-March 2020, claims circulated on social media that it is necessary to disinfect packaging to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
    • Currently, there is no evidence to suggest that you need to disinfect packaging to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
    • The Irish food safety agency, Safe Food, has stated that “it is not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging, and the risk from handling food packaging is very low.”
    • The World health Organisation advise to thoroughly wash your hands before and after shopping, and again after unpacking and storing your shopping.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Hannah Delaney, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway & Trinity College Dublin.
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Dearbháile Morris School of Medicine, and Centre for One Health, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does taking Vitamin D prevent or treat COVID-19?

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    • There are claims on social media that taking Vitamin D supplements may help treat or prevent COVID-19 infection.
    • There are currently no national (HSE) or international (WHO, CDC) guidelines for the use of Vitamin D to help treat or prevent COVID-19 infection.
    • At the moment, five ongoing randomised controlled trials are looking at whether Vitamin D has a role in preventing and/or treating COVID-19 infection.
    • There is evidence to suggest that people who are very deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to get respiratory tract infections (infections that affect the airways and lungs).
    • A systematic review of 25 randomised trials found that appropriate Vitamin D supplementation was safe, and that it protected against respiratory tract infections. It also found that people who were very Vitamin D deficient got the most benefit.
    • Most people should be able to get the Vitamin D they need by eating a varied and balanced diet and through sun exposure.
    • The HSE website outlines the correct amount of Vitamin D for people who may have Vitamin D deficiency. It is important not to take too much Vitamin D, as this could weaken bones.
    • The recommended level of Vitamin D supplementation according to the HSE website is 25 micrograms (0.025mg) or less a day of Vitamin D supplements. Taking 25 micrograms (0.025mg) or less a day of Vitamin D supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
    • A recent report on Irish research indicates that:
      • 47% of all adults aged >85 are likely to be deficient in Vitamin D in winter;
      • 27% of the over 70s (who are ‘cocooning’) are likely to be deficient;
      • 1 in 8 (13%) adults over 55 are likely to be deficient in Vitamin D all year.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Sandra Galvin, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Professor Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frank Moriarty,  Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Can large doses of vitamin C prevent or treat COVID-19?

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    • Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential vitamin. Adults need about 45mg of vitamin C a day, and you can get it by eating fruit and vegetables (World Health Organisation). If you don’t get enough of this vitamin, that can lead to scurvy, a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C.
    • In March 2020, claims circulated in social and mainstream media suggesting that vitamin C could be used as a treatment for COVID-19. These claims were made by a number of people and included stories of doctors using vitamin C to treat patients with COVID-19 in hospital. Some claims recommended taking large doses of vitamin C to ward off the coronavirus.
    • Using vitamin C for preventing and treating colds and flu has long been controversial. Although vitamin C supports the immune system (European Food Safety Authority), there’s little evidence that it can prevent or treat colds, let alone the new coronavirus disease.
    • A recent Cochrane systematic review found that the evidence is too limited and low in quality to draw any firm conclusions on the role of vitamin C supplementation in the prevention or treatment of pneumonia.
    • In most people, vitamin C supplements do not prevent the common cold. The common cold is a mild infection that causes little harm on its own. By contrast, COVID-19 is a much more serious and harmful disease. There is no evidence vitamin C protects against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
    • Taking vitamin C at less than 1000mg a day is unlikely to cause any harm, but high doses of vitamin C can cause stomach upset and diarrhoea.
    • There is an ongoing study looking at the potential of treating COVID-19 infections using high doses of vitamin C. This trial is not yet finished, and results are expected in September 2020.
    Conclusion
    • Currently, there is no high-quality evidence to support the use of Vitamin C in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Drafted by:  Dr Nikita Burke, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Evidence Synthesis Ireland NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Dr Colette Kelly, Director, Health Promotion Research Centre, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Frank Moriarty, Pharmacist & Lecturer, School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, RCSI & visiting research fellow at The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA).
    • Evidence Advisor (Public): Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor (Journalistic): Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does drinking water every 15 minutes reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)?

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    • The major transmission route for COVID-19 is via droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land on, or be inhaled by others in close proximity – this is why adhering to advice on physical distancing is so important.  Droplets can also land on surfaces and this explains why hand washing is another important way to reduce your chances of catching this virus.
    • In mid-March 2020, claims were circulated on social media and messaging platforms stating that drinking water every 15 minutes would protect against COVID-19. They claimed that if the virus had gotten into the throat, drinking water would wash the virus into the stomach where it would be killed by stomach acid.
    • No data exist to support the claim that drinking water will reduce infection of COVID-19 by transporting the virus to the stomach.
    • The World Health Organization have stated that “While staying hydrated by drinking water is important for overall health, it does not prevent coronavirus infection”
    • The best way to reduce the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is to practice physical distancing and to wash your hands properly and often.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Eimear Morrissey, School of Psychology, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Maureen Kelly, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Anne Daly, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Can holding your breath for ten seconds reveal if you have COVID-19 (coronavirus disease)?

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    • In March 2020, claims were circulated on social media that being unable to hold one’s breath for ten seconds, without coughing, was a sign of fibrosis of the lungs and a way of diagnosing COVID-19. The claims were attributed to several sources including a Japanese doctor and Taiwanese experts.
    • We did not find any studies suggesting that being unable to hold one’s breath for ten seconds without coughing indicates that you have or do not have COVID-19. Some claims suggested that being unable to hold your breath for ten seconds without coughing is a sign of fibrosis of the lungs – a disease involving the build-up of scar tissue in the alveoli (i.e. air sacs). However, holding your breath does not reveal the presence of fibrosis and fibrosis appears to be uncommon in cases of COVID-19 (Han et al., 2020) – studies suggest that, when present, it is only present in some of those who have developed pneumonia (Diao et al., 2020).
    • The World Health Organisation has refuted this claim and has emphasised that the only way of revealing whether a person has COVID-19 is to follow the established testing procedures.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Drafted by: Dr Chris Noone, School of Psychology, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, Professor of Midwifery, Deputy Dean, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Scientific Director, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Director of Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Liam Glynn, Graduate Entry Medical, University of Limerick, Chair of the North Clare Primary Care Team and GP, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does wearing a face-mask by people who are not sick prevent COVID-19 infection?

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    • Guidance about whether people who are not sick should wear masks is not always clear, and different guidelines do not always align or agree completely. Evidence in this area is limited and inconclusive. In the absence of good quality, conclusive evidence, the potential benefits of widespread mask-wearing must be weighed against the potential harms.
    • There is some evidence that wearing a mask reduces the amount of droplets scattered from the nose and mouth, and acts as ‘source control’ to protect the environment/others from the wearer. As such, there is general agreement from the WHO, US CDC and other organisations that individuals with respiratory symptoms should wear face coverings in combination with other measures (e.g. self-isolation, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette etc) to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
    • There is increasing evidence suggesting that people who have COVID-19, but who have mild or no symptoms, may contribute to the spread of COVID-19. It is plausible that using face coverings in combination with other measures may help reduce the spread of infection in the community by individuals who may not even know they are infected and have not yet developed any symptoms. This may be particularly important for situations where it is difficult to practice social distancing or in enclosed indoor spaces, (e.g. in shops, attending a GP practice or using public transport.)
    • There are a number of potential risks of wearing masks that need to be carefully considered. These include:
      • self-contamination that can occur by touching and reusing a contaminated mask
      • potential difficulties with breathing or communication
      • a false sense of security leading to potentially less adherence to other preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene
      • diversion of mask supplies leading to a shortage of mask for health care workers
      • diversion of resources from effective public health measures, such as hand hygiene
    • Very few studies have been conducted in SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, or in widespread community settings. Studies are often small or poor quality, the type of mask used in studies (e.g. medical/homemade face coverings) is often varied or unclear, and adverse effects or unintended consequences (such as self-contamination) are rarely reported.
    • It is unclear whether the use of masks or face coverings is linked to lower COVID-19 rates seen in some countries (e.g. China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan) because mask use is only one of many response measures that have been applied in these countries. Additionally, important factors influencing mask use such as following instructions regarding use, cultural/social norms, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene practices may be different and not generalisable to other countries.
    • Medical masks are not recommended for use by the public, as this may result in less being available for healthcare workers. As such, where masks are to be used by the public, these should be non-medical face masks or other face covers made from materials such as cotton and silk. It is unclear whether this guidance differs for people with and without symptoms. However, the use of nonmedical masks/homemade face coverings has been very poorly evaluated and there are no established standards for non-medical masks. To avoid confusion, the term ‘face covering’ is used in some guidance for non-medical masks
    • Face coverings alone are not sufficient to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are NOT a replacement for other recommended measures (e.g. hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, social distancing etc), and must be supported by adequate training on how to safely use face coverings (including how to put them on and take them off safely) before wearing them.
    • Face coverings may not be appropriate for some people (e.g. children under 13, people who have breathing difficulties or are unable to remove the covering without assistance).
    • Research in this area is rapidly evolving, and as such, it is expected that recommendations will continue to evolve accordingly.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Lead Researcher: Dr Elaine Toomey, School of Allied Health, University of Limerick & Cochrane Ireland Research Associate
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, School of Nursing and Midwifery, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Liam Glynn, Graduate Entry Medical, University of Limerick
    • Evidence Advisor: Deirdre Mac Loughlin, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway
    • Journalist Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times
  • Does the use of petrol pumps spread COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) rapidly?

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    • In mid-March 2020, claims circulated on social media saying that using of petrol pumps increased the risk of being infected with Covid-19 (coronavirus disease).
    • The virus that causes COVID-19, SARS CoV-2 is a new virus and we are still learning a lot about how it behaves. It is not certain how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive on surfaces, but a recent study found that the coronavirus that can cause COVID-19 illness can survive for up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel.
    • Petrol pumps are a hard surface, usually made of a type of plastic. Any surface that is frequently handling by different people is at risk of being contaminated. There is no evidence that petrol pumps are more or less likely to become contaminated than any other hard, plastic surface that is handled frequently.
    • Public Health England have stated that ‘Petrol pumps are no worse than other surfaces, although we do recommend people use gloves and wash their hands after using them.’
    • Therefore, there is no high quality evidence that petrol pumps pose any more or less risk than other hard, plastic surfaces.
    • When a person touches a contaminated surface and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth, there is potential for them to pick up the virus. This is why it is important to wash hands properly and frequently, and to thoroughly clean surfaces that are frequently touched.
    • To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please follow public health advice and wash your hands properly and often.
    • The major transmission route for COVID-19 is via droplets generated when a person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can be breathed in by, or land on others nearby – this is why following the advice on physical distancing is so important.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Drafted by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Dr Tom Conway, HRB Clinical Research Facility HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, School of Nursing and Midwifery and HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Dearbháile Morris School of Medicine, and Centre for One Health, NUI Galway.
    • Evidence Advisor (public): Tom Conway, Public Evidence Advisor
    • Evidence Advisor (Journalistic): Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Does taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, or aspirin make the symptoms of COVID-19 worse?

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    • Ibuprofen is one of a group of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (abbreviated as NSAIDs). They are often used to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation and reduce fevers.
    • In mid-March 2020, claims circulated on social media linking the use of ibuprofen to a worsening of the ill effects of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease). These claims were made by a number of people and bodies. It followed a letter on March 11, 2020, in The Lancet medical journal, which theorised that NSAIDs increase a particular enzyme (a type of substance that occurs naturally in the body),  and this increase could worsen the symptoms of COVID-19.
    • There is no conclusive evidence linking the use of NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, with worsening symptoms of COVID-19.
    • Until there is more evidence, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE, UK) recommend that people who have confirmed COVID-19, or believe they have COVID-19, should take paracetamol in preference to ibuprofen.
    • Some people take ibuprofen for other illnesses (e.g., arthritis). The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (UK) and the European Medicines Agency recommend that people currently advised to use ibuprofen by their healthcare professional should not stop using them.
    • A number of health agencies are currently investigating the issue by carrying out systematic reviews of the evidence.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Drafted by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway.
    • Reviewed by: Dr Tom Conway, HRB Clinical Research Facility HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Elaine Finucane, School of Nursing and Midwifery and HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Andrew Murphy, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway, Health Research Board Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland and General Practitioner principal in a semi-rural setting.
    • Evidence Advisor: Marcus Finucane, Public Evidence Advisor.
    • Evidence Advisor: Dr Claire O’Connell, Journalist, Contributor, The Irish Times.
  • Can spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body stop you from becoming infected with the new coronavirus?

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    • There is no evidence that spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body will stop you from becoming infected with the new coronavirus (WHO 2020).
    • The COVID-19 virus is a respiratory infection that affects your lungs, airways and breathing. The virus is mainly spread through droplets of saliva (spit) or discharge from the nose that move into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes (WHO 2020). These droplets can be breathed in by, or land on others nearby – this is why physical distancing is so important.
    • Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitisers helps remove germs from hands. This helps prevent infections, because people often touch their face without realising it. This means that germs from unwashed hands can enter your body, and they may cause infection (CDC 2020).
    • To protect yourself and others from coronavirus, please follow public health advice and wash your hands properly and often.

    Things to Remember

    Reviewers

    • Drafted by: Elaine Finucane, School of Nursing and Midwifery and HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland & Cochrane Ireland, NUI Galway
    • Reviewed by: Dr Tom Conway, HRB Clinical Research Facility HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network, NUI Galway
    • Evidence Advisor: Prof Andrew Murphy, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, NUI Galway, Health Research Board Primary Care Clinical Trials Network Ireland and General Practitioner principal in a semi-rural setting
    • Evidence Advisor (Public): Mark Finucane, Public Evidence Advisor
    • Evidence Advisor (Journalistic): Dr Claire O’Connell, Contributor, The Irish Times.