During a crisis there is unfortunately the side effect of a lot of bad information. It’s difficult enough to know what’s really going on when experts are also dealing with a new set of variables, and COVID-19 is exactly that sort of thing. It’s called a “novel” coronavirus because it is a new type of virus that none of us have any immunity to. That’s different to the flu, which has many strains but we have some immunity to — but each year the flu shot is a collection of statistically likely strains that can pop up in the new season. Our bodies have built up no immunity to COVID-19, and this is why it is dangerous. As scientists work to separate fact from fiction — mortality rates and how long the virus can stay alive on surfaces are among the mysteries — there are rumors going around that weed kills coronavirus. Sadly, that’s just not true.

The “news” came in the form of a meme, like so many untrue things do. An image of a bud, looking like a still from a news program, and a large headline below that reads “WEED KILLS CORONAVIRUS”. The “Live” and “breaking news” graphics are obviously generic, and there’s no station or paper or even website supporting the claim. While it might have been intended as a joke, Reuters reports the meme may be spreading false information nonetheless, as some people will believe just about anything.

While marijuana is good at a lot of things, not just getting you high, it can’t do much about viruses. In fact, scientists have long had trouble with killing viruses. They are impervious to many of the treatments for other diseases due to a resilient outer coating that leaves their DNA intact — almost the perfect organism for survival. Their resilience is why many virus-borne illnesses are simply permanent. Lyme disease, herpes, and of course the flu are all famous viruses, and they are treatable but not exactly curable.

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All hope is not lost, however. The fight against AIDS, still ongoing, has led to advancements in anti-viral tech, including retroviruses and other advancements that could help the growing pandemic that has spread around the world. The important thing to keep in mind is that smoking pot won’t make you immune. Nothing right now can make you immune to the novel coronavirus, and we’re still not even sure if you become immune after you get the virus in you. Typically, antibodies are produced by the body once a virus hits so you’re more resilient should it hit again. That’s pretty much how vaccines work, but we have no vaccine for COVID-19. We only very recently began testing one, which means a production-scale vaccine is at least a year away.

It’s important to verify sources when you see information online, and this meme is a good example of how to “sanitize” your news feed from nonsense. Ask yourself, “who is sending this?” Just by sourcing our information better we can help to separate fact from fiction. In a time when even scientists are getting a handle on the current crisis, it’s vital for the rest of us to do our part as well. 

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