Coronavius Brings Quacks out of Woodwork

  • By Seok Nam-jun, Ahn Sang-hyun

    February 22, 2020 08:33

    Online shopping sites are bristling with adverts for miracle cures or protection from coronavirus. Some do have some benefits for the immune system, but many are pure snake oil.

    An official at the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said, "All products being sold labeled as 'effective in preventing coronavirus' are either bogus or exaggerated." There is still no certified prevention or cure for COVID-19. Health officials can only recommend frequent hand-washing and wearing face masks.

    Even some provincial governments seem keen to capitalize on the virus scare. One provincial government in a part of Korea renowned for ginseng issued a statement touting the "growing expectations" of the herbal root combating the virus.

    Another provincial government in a region well-known for green tea issued a statement claiming that the herb is effective in strengthening the human immune system.

    Many doctors are jumping on the bandwagon. One hospital in South Gyeongsang Province claimed on its blog that an injection of high-dose vitamin C and licorice could prevent coronavirus infection. And an oriental medicine clinic in Gyeonggi Province passed out ads prodding people to consume medicinal herbs "for a major boost" to immunity.

    But experts warn that most such claims are false or exaggerated, because it remains unclear how to prevent infection at all. "Even healthy people can contract the virus," said Lee Jae-gap at Hallym University Medical Center in Gangnam. "If there was really a drug or food product that can prevent infection, it would have sold like hotcakes already all over the world."

    Similar quack remedies became popular during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2015, Zika virus outbreak in 2016 and even the fine-dust scare last year.

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