An alert from the World Health Organization this week did a bit of a mythbuster on the subject of alcohol during our current global pandemic. Misinformation spread over social networks and person-to-person in text chains over the past few weeks suggested high-strength alcohol could “kill the COVID-19 virus.” According to the World Health Organization: “It does not.”
UPDATE: Title of article adjusted to make absolutely clear that while alcohol can still be used as a disinfectant. Consuming alcoholic drinks is the bit that does not square with stopping the novel coronavirus and/or COVID-19.
A WHO representative made clear this week that “consuming any alcohol poses health risks, but consuming high-strength ethyl alcohol (ethanol) particularly if it has been adulterated with methanol, can result in severe health consequences, including death.” So, in a way, just like bleach, injesting methanol, ethanol, alcohol will have a better chance of killing you than it does killing novel coronavirus/COVID-19.
Myth/Fact from WHO release:
– Myth: Consuming alcohol destroys the virus that causes COVID-19.
+ Fact: Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus.*
– Myth: Drinking strong alcohol kills the virus in the inhaled air.
+ Fact: Consumption of alcohol will not kill the virus in the inhaled air; it will not
disinfect your mouth and throat; and it will not give you any kind of protection
– Myth: Alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits or herbal alcohol) stimulates immunity and resistance to the virus.
+ Fact: Alcohol has a deleterious effect on your immune system and will not
stimulate immunity and virus resistance.
*While alcohol of at least 60% by volume works as a disinfectant on your skin, it has “no such effect within your system when ingested.”
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we should really ask ourselves what risks we are taking in leaving people under lockdown in their homes with a substance that is harmful both in terms of their health and the effects of their behaviour on others, including violence,” said Carina Ferreira-Borges, Programme Manager, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs Programme, WHO/Europe.
Per the most recent set of facts listed by WHO in their official “Alcohol and COVID-19: what you need to know” fact packet, alcohol not only does NOT fight COVID-19, it makes users more vulnerable to possible infection. Alcohol use, “especially heavy use,” reduces the body’s ability to cope with infectious diseases as it “weakens the immune system.”
Further, heavy use of alcohol “increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS),” AKA one of the most severe complications of COVID-19. WHO added that “alcohol is in no way a necessary component of your diet and lifestyle.”