PETALING JAYA: Amid all the news about Covid-19 vaccines, tales still abound of home remedies as an antidote to the virus.
Herbs, healing oils, honey and home-made concoctions – these are some of the “preventive measures” being talked about among Malaysians despite the authorities’ battle against misinformation.
In a tweet on Oct 22, the Health Ministry reminded Malaysians that “there is no cure for #Covid-19 so far. If there are parties selling products that claim to be able to treat Covid-19, it is fake”.
Yet, that has not stopped the “snake oil salesman”.
For example, a banner offering free services related to “vaksin penawar Covid-19” was put up near a tree in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur.
The banner, which displayed a phone number, also stated that “telemedicine was available”.
A picture of the banner was posted last month by a Twitter user named Hafiz, who was amused by it. When contacted later, Hafiz said the banner had since been removed.
A chain message about how a mixture of coconut water, lime and salt can supposedly cure Covid-19 has been making its rounds in WhatsApp chatgroups.
In July, a woman promoting an anti-Covid-19 bracelet for RM600 apiece was slapped with a RM50,000 compound for her bogus claim.
Sellers now appear to be more mindful about their claims but some continue to promote their products as an aid to Covid-19 prevention.
An online seller promoting bottled fig and olive oil, who only wants to be known as Saiful, claimed when contacted that the remedies he sells can be used as a means to “prevent from getting infected by Covid-19”.
“We are selling a miracle oil set, which can be used as a means to prevent from Covid-19 infection and a remedy for those who have stroke or cholesterol, with added health benefits for the heart, intestines, kidney and lungs, ” he claimed.
None of these claims are backed by medical or scientific evidence and neither did Saiful reveal the content of the miracle oil set.
Even Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah was a target for these baseless claims when about two weeks ago, someone wrote to his Twitter account: “Please consume pineapple and lemon as a juice. It can help prevent our body from the virus. #KitaJagaKita.”
Both the Health Ministry as well as Dr Noor Hisham, and other doctors have repeatedly warned the public against such misinformation.
Teluk Intan Hospital Emergency and Trauma Department head Dr Samsu Ambia Ismail, who was himself infected by Covid-19 in April, said he was once advised to try ketum juice as a treatment.
“The person did not even have any prior exposure to Covid-19 so how can he know that it can become a remedy?” he said in an interview.
Dr Samsu said although there was alternative medicine such as ayurvedic or Chinese traditional treatment, there had been no scientific evidence that he was aware of that could currently help fight against Covid-19.
“People can opt for alternative medicine for health purposes but should not neglect proper medical treatment, especially when it comes to Covid-19.
“It is dangerous when Covid-19 patients get late-stage treatment, especially if they are in the high-risk group, ” he warned.
Hospitals, he added, would provide the necessary medically proven treatment for Covid-19 patients.
Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said sellers or promoters of drugs, medicines or devices that claimed to be a cure for Covid-19 were fake and doing so for profit.
“It is unethical and illegal. They are giving customers false hope and taking their money with a possibility of endangering their life.
“Covid-19 infection is a viral disease; it is not bacteria which can be killed by antibiotics. Antiviral drugs do not kill the virus but inhibit its development, ” he said.
Most viral infections, added Dr Zainal, either resolved by itself or slowly disappeared from the body through a person’s antibody developed by the infected person himself.
“The immunity, human resistance and ability to fight the virus will depend on the person’s health as well as nutritional status and the presence of chronic or immunosuppressive conditions, ” he said.
Reiterating that there was no evidence to date of any specific cure or medicine for Covid-19, Dr Zainal said there were only supportive, complementary and medical support modalities.
“There is evidence that remedies such as honey relieve cough while traditional Chinese medicine has a role to play as a complement to modern medicine.
“However, people with history of exposure to Covid-19 and have bad symptoms must seek proper medical treatment, ” he said.
He urged authorities to closely monitor sellers who claimed that their products could cure or prevent Covid-19 infection and take stern action against them.
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