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Drinking alcohol does not kill the COVID-19 virus

by Grailing Anthonisen - June 15, 2020   493 Views   3 min
Drinking alcohol does not kill the COVID-19 virus

Claim

Alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus because it is a “throat sanitizer”

Verdict

Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)

In April 2020 a Kenyan governor distributed COVID-19 care packages to his constituents that included bottles of drinking alcohol, claiming in a video posted on Twitter by Citizen TV Kenya that alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus because it is a “throat sanitizer”. This claim is entirely inaccurate.

Drinking alcohol can make COVID-19 worse

Alcohol offers no protection against COVID-19. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns against the consumption of alcohol and emphasizes that alcohol will not disinfect the mouth or throat. Alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system, especially in the case of excessive use, and increase susceptibility to COVID-19 as well as other illnesses. According to WHO, drinking alcohol excessively can also increase the risk of contracting acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which is one of the COVID-19’s most severe complications. The WHO also comments that alcohol consumption can increase health risks when one is infected with COVID-19.

The Pan American Health Organization goes one step further and recommends restricting alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it is also associated with mental health disorders which can be exacerbated during confinement.

Alcohol used in hand sanitizer and cleaning products is not fit for human consumption

The claim asserts that because alcohol is used in hand sanitizer and cleaning products to kill the virus that causes COVID-19 on hands and surfaces, drinking it will have the same effect inside the body and sanitize the throat. This is definitely not the case. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that, while certain types of alcohol can be used to disinfect surfaces and your skin, they are poisonous when ingested. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers require an alcohol concentration of 60% to 80% by volume. Drinking that level of concentration is toxic and can cause alcohol poisoning. The alcohol concentration in alcoholic drinks made for human consumption is typically below 40%. Drinking more quantities of alcohol made for human consumption will not increase alcohol concentration, it will only cause health issues and, potentially, death.

If you or someone you know ingested hand sanitizer or a high concentration of alcohol not intended for human consumption, immediately call poison control or a health professional.

The claim that alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus because it sanitizes the throat is inaccurate. Drinking alcohol will not disinfect or kill COVID-19 inside one’s body, and excessive alcohol consumption can increase vulnerability to the disease. The concentration of alcohol necessary to kill microbes is dangerous and possibly deadly for human consumption.

It is also misleading and damaging to refer to a credible and trusted health source using incorrect information. When someone with no health or public health background refers to a trusted source like the World Health Organization in making a claim, it is always a good idea to check if that claim is accurate by going directly to the source.

So how do I protect myself against COVID-19?

Key ways to protect yourself against COVID-19, according to WHO, include hand and respiratory hygiene, and, when possible, physical distancing (maintaining at least a 1-meter distance between yourself and others). If physical distancing is not possible, then wear a non-medical mask made of three layers of cloth. For persons over 60, it is recommended to wear a medical-grade mask if physical distancing is not possible. If you have COVID-19 or suspect you are infected with the virus, you should always wear a mask. For more guidance on how to wear a face mask, please click here.


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  Claim

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko

Person
Alcohol plays a major role in killing the coronavirus because it is a “throat sanitizer”

Verdict:

Inaccurate (no factual basis; unacceptable margin of error)

 June 15, 2020


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