Stanford warns public about bogus coronavirus breathing test, calling it 'misinformation'

Viral posts on social media that have also shown up in email chains falsely claim there’s a way to self-test for the coronavirus that involves holding your breath -- advice that purports to come from Stanford.

The university said Friday it has nothing to do with the bogus breathing test claim, which appeared to surface in the past week.

“Misinformation about COVID-19 symptoms and treatment falsely attributed to Stanford is circulating on social media and in email forwards,” Stanford tweeted. "It is not from Stanford."

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Social media users are sharing the false post on What’s App, Twitter and Facebook, The Associated Press reported Thursday.

“Taiwan experts provide a simple self-check that we can do every morning,” says the post, purportedly from a friend on the Stanford Hospital board. “Take a deep breath and hold it for more than 10 seconds. If you complete it successfully without discomfort, stuffiness or tightness, it proves there is no fibrosis in the lungs, basically indicating no infection.”

The post also claims if a coronavirus patient goes to the hospital too late their lungs will experience 50 percent fibrosis, a scarring of the lungs that restricts breathing. And it claims that drinking water every 15 minutes will kill the virus. Each of those claims are false..

Dr. Robert Legare Atmar, an infectious disease specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, told the AP that there is no clear evidence that coronavirus causes 50 percent pulmonary fibrosis.

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Experts said the 10-second test being shared online would not be a reliable way to determine whether someone has the virus, according to the AP.

“This approach may be helpful in identifying persons with more serious lung disease,” Atmar said. "But it will not identify persons who are infected and have mild to no symptoms.”

There are many things beyond coronavirus that could lead to restricted breathing, including asthma, anxiety or heart disease, Dr. Gregory Poland, head of vaccine research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., told the AP. All could make it difficult to hold your breath for 10 seconds, he said.

The AP also reported that the World Health Organization has continuously updated their social media platforms to debunk false claims about the coronavirus. The WHO Philippines on Feb. 7 sent a tweet knocking down the claim about drinking water to avoid getting the virus.

British citizens have been warned not to fall for the bogus advice by the United Kingdom’s Department of Health and Social Care, the Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

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The department said the post wasn’t accurate and directed people to its website for official advice on the outbreak, according to the paper.