WESTFIELD PUBLIC HEALTH WEEKLY BULLETIN
By Juanita Carnes FNP, Board of Health chair
A recent study in a British Global Health Journal suggested it may be possible to eradicate COVID-19, like polio and smallpox, with a rapid response to new variants and high vaccination rates. They suggest the combination of effective vaccines and effective public health measures make that possible. The study notes that misinformation is the biggest road block to this happening.
Local and national statistics support the concern of misinformation. In our city there are 64 new confirmed cases this week, and one related death. Seventy percent of new cases are unvaccinated individuals. We are seeing an increase across the board, including pediatric cases. Nationwide there are over 4 million cases this month, and deaths have reached 689,000.
Yet so many are under the impression this pandemic is improving. And so many more still remain unvaccinated.
A new low in the news tells of a nurse in Canada who was punched by a man complaining that his wife was given a vaccine without his consent. With all due respect to those that have different opinions, this is completely unacceptable and criminal. Getting medical advice from social media is a poor choice and is dangerous. Many preventatives for COVID-19 have been touted without any scientific data to prove effectiveness or safety. Some of these solutions have taken lives. Most of these are in high demand by unvaccinated individuals. The World Health Organization has dubbed this an “Infodemic” within a pandemic.
Ivermectin has been incorrectly solicited as a drug to prevent COVID-19, with no scientific support. Two people in New Mexico have died from using ivermectin as a preventative. Ivermectin is approved by the FDA to treat certain parasitic infections in animals (commonly to rid cows and horses of worms) and humans, not COVID. It is reported to be flying off farm supply shelves and clerks are fielding nonstop phone calls enquiring about use.
Poison Control is answering a surge in calls due to misuse or overdose of ivermectin. The CDC reports 88,000 prescriptions written for ivermectin in the week ending Aug. 13. This is up from a pre-pandemic rate of approximately 3,600 prescriptions written in one week. Why is it being prescribed? People unable to get a prescription are buying it in animal form, which is more concentrated and has unapproved inactive ingredients for humans. Merck, the manufacturer, made a statement that use for COVID-19 is not supported. The FDA put out a warning tweet on Aug. 21: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”
Another misinformed viral video is out there claiming that povidone-iodine can be used to help prevent COVID-19. This video has been viewed by hundreds of thousands, and states doctors suggest gargling with povidone-iodine to prevent COVID-19 from entering the lungs.
This product is meant to clean skin and kill bacteria. COVID-19 is a virus, not bacteria. The body requires a small amount of iodine and does not produce it. It is found as an additive in salt and naturally occurring in seafood and seaweed. Too much can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, neurological side effects, thyroid issues and cancer. If it were that simple and useful in prevention, everyone would be advocating for it.
Other drugs thought to prevent the virus without scientific evidence and have caused severe illness and deaths include chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Azithromycin is an antibiotic that has been thought to stop COVID. But again, COVID is a virus not a bacterial disease.
The following have all been found in social media as COVID prevention tactics: smelling sesame and other plant oils, eating sea lettuce, drinking alcohol, cleaning nostrils, saline nasal spray, UV lamps, gargling with lemon juice, avoiding exposure to 5G networks, disinfectant in and on your body, and supplements — vitamin c, zinc, echinacea, green tea, colloidal silver (not safe), oleander (poisonous) — injecting bleach, taking hot baths and increasing body temperature, exposure to sun, snow, cold weather and decreasing body temperature, and garlic. While not negating that some of these are healthy, harmless and useful practices for other reasons, none will prevent COVID. Any miracle cure with a quick fix and a secret ingredient is guaranteed to be a hoax.
All this misinformation fuels skepticism and distrust, which fuels fear and anxiety, and leads to dismissal of proven health measures, unnecessary violence and ultimately loss of life.
The science and statistics clearly show that the COVID-19 vaccination, mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing save lives. All are safe and effective. Base your health beliefs and actions on science, not social media misinformation.
Take care of yourself and someone else.
Dedicated health department members have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, as well as Board of Health members Juanita Carnes, FNP, Margaret Doody, and Stan Strzempko, M.D.
We keep working to keep you safe.