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False Belief That Methanol Fights Coronavirus Kills 300 Iranians

False Belief That Methanol Fights Coronavirus Kills 300 Iranians

Friday, 27 March, 2020 - 11:15
A person in protective clothing walks through a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 coronavirus patients set up by the Iranian army at the international exhibition center in northern Tehran, Iran, on Thursday. AFP
Asharq Al-Awsat

As he stood over the body of an apparently ill kid wearing nothing but a plastic diaper, Iranian health care worker urged citizens to stop drinking industrial alcohol over fears about the new coronavirus.


The 5-year-old boy is now blind after his parents gave him toxic methanol in the mistaken belief that it protects against the virus.


He is just one of hundreds of victims holding wrong beliefs over the pandemic now gripping Iran.


There are nearly 300 who have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the country.


The poisonings come as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed Iran, the Associated Press (AP) reported.


Dr. Knut Erik Hovda, a clinical toxicologist in Oslo, said to expect more methanol poisoning victims.


“The virus is spreading and people are just dying off, and I think they are even less aware of the fact that there are other dangers around,” Hovda said.


“When they keep drinking this, there's going to be more people poisoned.”


For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.


For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.


Scientists and doctors continue to study the virus and search for effective medicines and a vaccine.


However, in message that were forwarded over and over again, Iranian social media accounts in Farsi falsely suggested a British school teacher and others cured themselves of the coronavirus with alcohol and honey, which are baseless claims so far.


International experts also fear Iran may be under-reporting its cases, as officials for days played down the virus ahead of a parliamentary election.


According to AP, the fear of the virus, coupled with poor education and internet rumors, saw dozens sickened by drinking bootleg alcohol containing methanol in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province and its southern city of Shiraz.


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