Mad About Science: COVID-19 misinformation

By Brenden Bobby
Reader Columnist

This week’s subject was suggested by the library’s lifelong learning coordinator, Mike Bauer. Thanks, Mike!

COVID-19 is a volatile subject right now. It’s still a relatively new disease and all of the facts surrounding it are still evolving on a daily basis. While most of us are already confused by the glut of changing information, there are also active misinformation campaigns blowing up our social media feeds. 

The purpose of these campaigns isn’t immediately clear, but are believed to be driven by the same factors that inspired yellow journalism (a.k.a. “fake news”) in the past: profiteering from sensationalism and seeding discord to propagate a number of political agendas to build momentum for a certain type of political alignment or candidate, or just to cause general chaos among the population.

If you’re unsure of the legitimacy of something you’ve read online, particularly in your social media feed, always ask yourself this question: “What does the poster of this content have to gain by my consumption of this information?”

If you’re still unsure about something, please speak with a local librarian. Librarians have been on the front lines of the misinformation war for as long as we’ve collected books to share knowledge. Speaking from experience, librarians take on intense amounts of training to discern the legitimacy of information spread by social sources — particularly on social media.

Some of the misinformation surrounding COVID-19 has been propagated by government officials who either have no idea what they’re talking about, or seem to be willing participants in these active misinformation campaigns, which turn fact-checking into a heated political fight. Today, we will take a look at some of these examples. My intention isn’t to upset some people’s political sensibilities; my intention is to research and share facts from scientists. If this article upsets you, I would suggest discussing it with a librarian or a professional in the medical science field.

Injecting Disinfectant

While it’s true that disinfectants like bleach can kill the SARS-COV-2 virus, it also kills our own cells at an equal rate. Chlorine bleach damages cells by oxidizing matter within the cells and causing them to break down, effectively killing them. Because of that, it’s virtually impossible for bacteria and viruses to build up an immunity to chlorine bleach. Injecting disinfectants into your bloodstream causes your blood cells to break down, effectively poisoning you.

Ultraviolet Radiation

UV radiation does a fantastic job at killing bacteria and viruses. We have developed extremely useful water filters that barrage water with ultraviolet radiation, killing the bacteria and making it safe to drink. It also breaks down the cells in our body. A sunburn happens when UV radiation damages the DNA of our skin cells, causing them to break down and in essence poison the surrounding area, causing swelling and sloughing of the dead skin cells, which we observe as peeling. 

Our skin cells are specially adapted to produce a pigment called melanin, which is responsible for the bronzed hue we take on when we start to tan. Our lung cells are very specially adapted to perform a certain task — no part of which includes interaction with focused ultraviolet radiation. Exposure to large amounts of UV radiation in our lungs results in the same kind of damage as a sunburn, but which opens avenues for rapid bacterial infection (pneumonia) in two of our most vital and sensitive organs. Concentrated exposure could actually increase the odds of complications from COVID-19.


Also known as Plaquenil, this is an immunosuppressant and antimalarial drug. It’s two largest uses are to help treat people suffering from lupus and malaria, respectively. Lupus is a complicated autoimmune disease, which basically means those suffering from lupus have a hyperactive immune system that will attack other cells of the body. 

You’ve heard me talk about my celiac disease before — that is also an autoimmune disease where my body attacks the gluten protein in wheat, and ends up dealing collateral damage to my intestinal cells. 

Malaria is passed by a parasite that exists within mosquitoes, mostly in tropical areas. There has been no evidence that hydroxychloroquine does anything to help prevent or treat COVID-19, and the FDA actually recommends against using it for this reason.

Horse Dewormer

This one recently made the rounds in our local social media feeds, and even caused a panic buyout of horse medication in several local farm and feed stores. Horse deworming medication is designed to kill multicellular parasites such as roundworm and tapeworm, similar to the ones you’ve seen extracted from humans on medical television shows. 

These parasites feed off the blood of animals by boring into their intestines, but their eggs are small enough to slip into the bloodstream and travel to virtually any connected organ, including the heart and brain. These are not viruses, and the medication to treat them has absolutely no effect on the SARS-COV-2 virus. Similarly, taking antibiotics to treat viral infections is not only useless, but dangerous, as it helps strengthen bacteria that survived the treatment, leading to drug-resistant strains of bacteria like MRSA.

This doesn’t scratch the surface of the immense amount of misinformation floating around the internet right now. If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask for help from the library. The staff is there to help enlighten you in a safe, judgment-free zone.

Trust me, I tend to ask them a lot of stupid questions, and they haven’t laughed me off the property — yet.

Stay curious, 7B.

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