October 05, 2020

UAB expert answers the internet's biggest COVID-19 questions

Written by

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to uab.edu/uabunited for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

Molly FleeceMolly Fleece, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, is combating misinformation online by providing answers to commonly searched questions about COVID-19 on the UAB Medicine site. Google uses these responses in providing search results to users.Information — and misinformation — abound online. UAB Medicine recently began providing quick answers to common searches about COVID-19 on its website to combat misleading or incorrect information that searchers will discover on the internet.

Molly Fleece, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases, has answered questions on the best way to wash fruits and vegetables, the effectiveness of essential oils (there is no evidence that essential oils are safe or effective for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19, she noted), blood pressure drugs and COVID-19 complications and the best over-the-counter treatments to ease symptoms of COVID-19.

“I definitely get questions like these often from patients as well as from family, friends and other acquaintances,” Fleece said. “I hope that by answering these commonly Googled questions, that I can provide data-driven explanations as well as references to support my responses to these questions.” 

One recent question should be of increasing interest as we move forward into fall: Does the flu vaccine interfere with the body's ability to fight off COVID-19?

"The seasonal influenza vaccine will not interfere with the body's ability to fight off COVID-19," Fleece writes, pointing to flu vaccination guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Both the SARS-CoV-2 virus [the virus that causes COVID-19) and influenza virus will be circulating in our communities this fall and winter. We strongly recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older (with rare exceptions) receive the influenza vaccine this fall. This is to prevent either acquiring the influenza virus or developing severe influenza, which may lead to hospitalizations, intensive-care-unit admissions or death."

The best way to avoid misinformation online is to always look to the source, Fleece said. “There is certainly a lot of misinformation circulating on the internet and especially on social media,” she said. “First and foremost, always remember to look for the source of the data that is being reported. The source will likely provide a good clue as to whether the information is trustworthy or not.”

Follow the latest questions and answers at uabmedicine.org/news.