(USA TODAY) –Iranian media reports that at least 44 people have died from alcohol poisoning and hundreds have been hospitalized after consuming bootleg alcohol in an effort to treat the coronavirus.
The Middle Eastern country, which has been especially hit hard by the coronavirus – with 8,042 confirmed cases and at least 291 deaths as of Tuesday – has struggled to prevent the spread of the virus.
The majority of deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the Middle East are in Iran.
A false rumor has circulated throughout the country that drinking alcohol can cure or prevent the coronavirus. Drinking alcohol is prohibited in the country.
Some citizens, according to Iran Health Ministry official Ali Ehsanpour, drank alcohol that substituted toxic methanol for ethanol, using bleach to mask the color. Seven bootleggers have been arrested.
In one part of the country, Khuzestan, more people have died from alcohol poisoning than from the coronavirus in that area, according to the state news agency IRNA. More than 30 people have died from poisoning, and 18 have died from the virus.
The rumor also has circulated throughout Indian social media, reports NDTV and the Times of India, which the World Health Organization has debunked. One iteration of the rumor suggests that spraying alcohol or chlorine can prevent the coronavirus from entering the body.