Since mid-February 2021, a message is being shared on WhatsApp forums in Cameroon supposedly outlining a set of recommendations to follow in case of Covid-19 infection.
"This is a very important circular from the Ministry of Health. Anyone feeling the symptoms of coronavirus infection should quarantine themselves at home and take the following treatment: panadol 1000 mg twice a day, azithromycin 500 mg once within five days, vitamin C 1000 mg once a day, zinc tab 50 mg once a day, vitamin D 50000 mg once a week, Strepsils three times a day," the message reads.
According to Clavère Nken, head of the Ministry of Public Health’s communication department, this message is a hoax. Most of the advice carried by the message is either erroneous or unfounded.
The ministry has not published a home treatment plan to be followed by people feeling the symptoms of the coronavirus.
According to a circular published by the Ministry of Public Health on March 23, 2020, people infected with the coronavirus are treated using the following protocol: "hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine 200 mg 3 times a day for 10 days and azithromycin 500 mg the first day and 250 mg a day for four days."
The hotline 1510
The message advises people not to visit health centers when they feel the symptoms but rather call the hotline "195" to get a response team dispatched to take care of them. Yet, the official hotline set up by Cameroon to quickly tend to coronavirus matters is "1510".
Officially, people feeling the symptoms of the coronavirus pandemic are invited to call the hotline. Then, after a remote evaluation, a medical team will be dispatched if the evaluation hints that the caller could be a positive case. The dispatched team collects samples and analyzes them at reference laboratories. If the samples are positive, the caller is immediately taken to a treatment center for proper care or, depending on the health status, provided with a home treatment plan.
So-called "mild" cases are treated at home provided the patient signs a declaration of commitment to respect medical prescriptions and not to spread the disease. According to the message being shared, the Ministry of Public Health also recommends "gargling with warm water and salt for 5 minutes a day and drinking large quantities of water." However, this advice has been repeatedly denied by health authorities who claim that gargling is not efficient against the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, health specialists recommend that for the overall health of the human body, it is important to drink a lot of water, "not just because of Covid-19."
The World Health Organization (WHO) makes no mention of gargling in its advice to the general public on Covid-19. Numerous viral messages with advice and remedies to combat the coronavirus have been widely shared on social networks since the beginning of the health crisis.
One such message attributed to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) stated that "gargling with hot water and salt kills the viruses hidden in the tonsils and prevents them from leaking into the lungs." This was denied by the UN agency.
The main advice from the Ministry of Health, the WHO, and the UNICEF is to regularly wash hands with soap and water or a hydro-alcoholic solution, wear a protective mask, keep at least a 1-meter distance between people outside, and seek immediate medical attention in case of cough, fever, breathing difficulties or other symptoms of the disease. That way, people can protect themselves and protect others from the pandemic, the institutions believe.