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Medical officials counter claims that gargling eliminates coronavirus

March 16, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Coronavirus remains in the throat for four days, drinking water and gargling with warm water mixed with salt or vinegar eliminates the virus.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Drinking water and gargling with a mixture of warm water and salt or vinegar is not an effective way to fight or eliminate the coronavirus spreading in the U.S.

THE FACTS: Medical officials said there is no evidence that gargling with the mixture will combat the novel coronavirus. False posts containing the claim have been shared widely on social media.

One post being shared widely states: “Corona virus before it reaches the lungs it remains in the throat for four days and at this time the person begins to cough and have throat pains. If he drinks water a lot and gargling with warm water & salt or vinegar eliminates the virus. Spread this information because you can save someone with this information.”

Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, Infectious Disease expert at the Baylor College of Medicine, told the AP while the virus may be detected in the throat for at least a week after the onset of symptoms, the information about gargling is false.

“There is no evidence for coronavirus or other respiratory viruses that drinking water or gargling protect against subsequent infection and illness,” he said. “In fact, doing these activities might give people a false sense of security, which would be dangerous if it resulted in behavior that is more risky.”

“It can be detected in the throat for at least a week after symptom onset, at least in some people. That’s not to say that it’s not already somewhere else in the body.”

In addition, according to the World Health Organization, “there is no evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline has protected people from infection with the new coronavirus.”

While there is some evidence that rinsing with saline can help when recovering from the common cold, there’s no evidence it’s effective at preventing respiratory infections. Vinegar is not recommended to fight against coronaviruses, according to Rutgers University.

WHO declared the virus a pandemic last week. The majority of people who become infected with the virus will experience symptoms including a fever and cough.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536