Sesame oil won't zap the coronavirus, and don't microwave the mask


Q Can I microwave my disposable mask so that I can use it again?

A Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang, programme leader for infectious diseases at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, said there are viral videos on how you can steam masks. These are not recommended. The masks are meant to be used once, and microwaving or steaming is likely to damage them and reduce their protectiveness.


Q Can eating garlic or ginger help prevent a coronavirus infection?

A Garlic may have some antimicrobial properties and is known to be good for wellness properties. However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic or ginger has protected people from the coronavirus, said the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Q I heard that applying sesame oil can block the coronavirus from entering the body.

A No. Sesame oil does not kill the coronavirus, the WHO said. There are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the coronavirus on surfaces. These include bleach or chlorine-based disinfectants.

Q Can I use bleach and other disinfectants on my body to kill the coronavirus?

A These products have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.

Q Does rinsing my nose with saline prevent an infection?

A No. There is some limited evidence that regularly rinsing the nose with saline can help people recover faster from the common cold. But this has not been shown to prevent respiratory infections.


Q Can pets spread the coronavirus?

A There is no evidence that companion animals and pets such as dogs or cats can be infected with the coronavirus.

However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets.

Q I heard that using a 5G network spreads the virus.

A This is not true. Wuhan was one of a few places where 5G was rolled out in China recently, along with other parts of the world. This led to some conspiracy theorist to say that the technology damaged people's DNA and immune systems.

However, there is no evidence that 5G is harmful to humans. Like 4G, 3G and 2G before it, 5G mobile data is transmitted over radio waves which are non-ionising and do not damage DNA.

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Q Is it true that a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her baby?

A After a newborn in China tested positive for the virus, there were concerns that the virus was transmitted from mother to child.

However, the test was reportedly conducted about 36 hours after the baby's birth, and the baby had come in contact with other people within that time frame.

There is thus no clear conclusion as to whether vertical transmission from mother to child is possible, said the experts quoted in a South China Morning Post report.

Associate Professor Tan Hak Koon, the chairman of the division of obstetrics and gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said that globally, there are not many reported cases of pregnant women infected with the coronavirus who have delivered.

"Hence, we do not have strong evidence to suggest that the virus can be transmitted from the mother to foetus while in the womb," he said.

Q Should I avoid places where there were suspected cases?

A No, as these places would be well-disinfected and cleaned if there were suspected cases.

It is still good practice to wash your hands frequently, and after touching public transport hand-holds or other common surfaces.

Q Should I be worried about the parcels I ordered online? What if they have travelled through virus-infected areas?

A All online packages would usually have travelled long distances, and would have been exposed to sunlight in the process. This would help destroy the viruses, if there were any. If you are worried, wash your hands before and after handling the package to prevent the spread of any germs.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 16, 2020, with the headline Sesame oil won't zap the coronavirus, and don't microwave the mask. Subscribe