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It's time to shut down one of the biggest coronavirus hoaxes

Don't hold your breath.

We're all scrambling for answers right now. You feel it, I feel it, and all too often we're asking ourselves "DO I FEEL IT?" As in, has the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, taken hold in my body? For those lucky few, there is access to a diagnostic test. And after a positive test, for most there is still some form of treatment.

For the rest of us, there is a seemingly endless torrent of stress and anxiety. And that's where scammers, liars and profiteers come in and attempt to take advantage of our newfound psychological and physical vulnerabilities. For that, you have to look no further than the single biggest hoax that has been perpetuated about the coronavirus. It's one that continues to be disseminated even after it was widely debunked nearly a week ago.

So, let's put a stop to this right now.

Have you heard of it already? Here is the fully misleading text:

The new NCP coronavirus may not show sign of infection for many days, how can one know if he/she is infected. By the time they have fever and/or cough and goes to the hospital, the lungs is usually 50 % Fibrosis and it's too late! Taiwan experts provide a simple self-check that we can do every morning:Take a deep breath and hold your breath for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without coughing, without discomfort, stuffiness or tightness etc it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicating no infection.In critical times, please self-check every morning in an environment with clean air!

On some basic level, it all seems to make sense. After all, if you've ever had a simple cough and tried to hold your breath, then you know how difficult it can be. But when there are no sources or medical experts cited, that's an immediate red flag. Secondly, the mainstream media is absolutely desperate for news about treatments and a vaccine. If there was any truth to this method, it would have been widely reported on. People, I'm sorry to say this but your Facebook feed is not the New York Times.

In labeling the claim "false," Snopes explains:

"While holding your breath is likely harder if your lung capacity is reduced, there is no scientific support for the notion that holding your breath for 10 seconds indicates a clean bill of health, nor is there support for the implied assertion that the only reason holding your breath for 10 seconds would be hard is because COVID-19 caused pulmonary fibrosis. Several factors can reduce lung function, including allergies, asthma, chronic conditions, and infections. As such, there are multiple forms of respiratory tests that doctors perform on lungs to identify problems. None of them involves one's ability to hold their breath for 10 seconds."

Beyond the 10 second claim, Snopes breaks down the other scientific holes along with the fact that the Stanford Health Care explicitly denied any validity to the claim (versions of the text going around claimed them as a source). Stanford writes:

"A widely circulating Google document claiming to have identified a potential treatment for COVID-19 in consultation with Stanford's School of Medicine is not legitimate. Stanford Medicine was not involved in the creation of this document, nor have we published a study showing the effectiveness of this drug. Please click here for accurate information about COVID-19, and please consult a physician before taking any sort of prescription medication."

Another hoax claim reads as follows:

SERIOUS EXCELLENT ADVICE by Japanese doctors treating COVID-19 cases. Everyone should ensure your mouth & throat is moist, never DRY. Take a few sips of water every 15 mins at least. WHY? Even if the virus gets into your mouth…drinking water or other liquids will WASH them down through your oesophagus and into the stomach. Once there in tummy…your stomach ACID will kill all the virus. If you don't drink enough water more regularly…the virus can enter your windpipes and into the LUNGS. That's very dangerous.Pls send and share with family, friends and everyone about this ! Take care everyone n may the world recovers from corona virus soon. May all be well n happy

Snopes also emphatically debunks this claim, which frankly looks a little silly to begin with. But the real tragic thing that people are still sharing this. Much luck how millions of Americans are still reportedly refusing to socially isolate even in the face of a national emergency, it's virtually impossible to put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to the spread of false information.

But we cannot put too fine a point on this: If you're sharing this, you're contributing to people getting sick and maybe even dying. And if you see someone sharing this, tell them to stop. Send them a link to this article, to the Snopes page or to the Stanford Health statement. It's going to be a tough and challenging journey to get past the devastating impact of COVID-19 and we only get there by holding the powerful, and ourselves, accountable to the truth.

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