A viral message claiming dengue fever can be prevented by applying coconut oil below your knees is fake. The message bearing the signature of a doctor claims that the dengue causing mosquito cannot fly higher than a person’s knees and applying coconut oil acts as an antibiotic. BOOM contacted the doctor under whose name the fake message is viral. The doctor has denied having written such a prescription.
A photo showing a typed letter made to resemble a handwritten note and signed as Dr B Sukumar from Sai Sudha Hospital, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh states, “This message is to inform you all that Dengue viral is going on. So please use coconut oil below your knees till your footsteps. It is an antibiotic. And a Dengue mosquito can not fly higher than knees. So please keep this in mind & start using it. Spread this message to as much as you can. Your one message can save many life’s.”
BOOM found that the photo has been viral on social media sites since 2017 with various captions like, ‘best way to prevent dengue’, ‘Use coconut oil and avoid dengue fever’
Speaking to BOOM, Dr. Sukumar said he has been trying to clear his name for the past four years. A practising orthopedician, Dr Sukumar said he had never written such a letter or prescribed coconut oil for dengue. “I have not written this and I am trying to figure out how my name has been used. This is a typed message in a font which resembles a handwriting,” he explained. He added that the message was also fake because coconut oil is not a remedy for dengue. “This isn’t the correct way to prevent dengue. Coconut oil is not an antibiotic.”
Dengue is caused by the Aedes mosquito which breeds in standing water containers such as buckets, bowls, flower pots, and vases. The weather during monsoon serves as a perfect environment for the breeding of the mosquitoes. The most common symptoms include fever with nausea, rashes, muscle and joint pains.
According to the WHO Report on Global Strategy for Dengue Prevention and Control, dengue can be lethal in the upcoming years and can cause significant suffering in some of the most affected areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. These dengue causing mosquitoes have a flying range of 400 m and thus can bite above the knees.
BOOM did not find any scientific evidence stating that coconut oil is an appropriate antidote or a preventive mechanism for dengue.
Dr. Ravindra Nath Sahay, Professor of Medicine and Consultant Physician at Seth G.S. Medical College, and KEM Hospital, Mumbai said, “Such viral information is causing havoc in patients about things that are easily preventable. No specific treatment for dengue fever, which is a viral fever, exists. It is better if people wear fully covered clothes along with not letting water lie stagnant in their houses.”
The WHO has also shared an eight point mechanism for preventing dengue which includes preventing mosquitoes from breeding in stored standing water areas by implementing fogging, using personal protection measures such as long sleeved clothes, repellents, coils throughout the day, and other community measures.
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Shachi Sutaria is a fact-checker at BOOM. She has previously worked as a health research analyst at AMS Consulting, Lucknow for various national and international clients. She is a post- graduate in Public Health- Health administration from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.
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