Does Using the ‘African Method’ Help Avoid Contracting COVID-19?

Stories about people beating COVID-19 through “traditional” remedies continue to spread online in spite of warnings from health officials.

For example, a post from news site NewsOne features what it claims is a “viral video.” In reality, the three-minute clip embedded in the story had now amassed more than a few thousand views since being uploaded to YouTube on April 3 2020.

The video, promoting what it calls an “African method” which purportedly helps people avoid contracting the virus, shows a young man under a blanket at first, before emerging and revealing that he was sitting over a large cooking pot with steam emanating from it.

“I was in there like shaking, but I feel good,” he says before someone off-camera urges him to “tell them” how it supposedly works:

Essentially, since the coronavirus is a virus-type thing, Viruses can’t survive in heat. That’s why viruses outbreaks tend to die out in the summer. So, what this essentially does is it takes all the powers of fruits, all the power of veggies, you put it in a heated environment and then you create a makeshift sauna and it creates that same type environment so the virus can break down and eventually, you yourself will grow the antibodies necessary in order for you to fight said virus.

The scene in the living room then fades to a close-up of a woman telling viewers she did not film it, but “saw it trending [and] wanted to talk about it,” and also touting herbal-based remedies.

The World Health Organization has already refuted the claim that the virus is vulnerable to heat, saying:

From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 virus can be transmitted in ALL AREAS, including areas with hot and humid weather. Regardless of climate, adopt protective measures if you live in, or travel to an area reporting COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 is by frequently cleaning your hands. By doing this you eliminate viruses that may be on your hands and avoid infection that could occur by then touching your eyes, mouth, and nose.

Health officials have also debunked the claim that the type of “treatment” seen in the video is effective in dealing with the virus. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health said in a statement:

The media has reported that some people are seeking “alternative” remedies to prevent infection with COVID-19 or to treat the virus. Some of these purported remedies include herbal therapies and teas. There is no scientific evidence that any of these alternative remedies can prevent or cure the illness caused by COVID-19. In fact, some of them may not be safe to consume.

According to the WHO regional office for Africa, at least 8,419 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed across 45 countries on the continent as of April 10 2020, with 410 deaths linked to the disease.

NewsOne does cite a separate an analysis by Reuters debunking the claim that “steam therapy” is effective against COVID-19. (In fact, not only can it confer a false sense of safety that is in and of itself dangerous during a pandemic, the treatment — which uses scalding steam — actually carries a risk of injury.) But the blog also claims that “there is a case to be made for holistic-style treatments to ward off and treat the coronavirus, but they have neither been proven effective on a widespread scale nor approved by the FDA.”

Reports concerning the recovery of Raeburn Fairweather, a respiratory therapist at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, also made note of his use of “traditional Caribbean home remedies made with turmeric, garlic and ginger” without explaining how that helped him deal with the disease, which he contracted in the course of his work. Fairweather has subsequently been cleared to return to work, and the center has highlighted the New York Post’s story on him.

We contacted the center to ask if it had begun recommending these traditional remedies for patients diagnosed with the virus. We have not yet heard back.