Fact or fiction: Debunking misconceptions amid the coronavirus outbreak
When false news and misconceptions are spreading like wildfire online, always check your facts with reliable sources
Feb 6, 2020
When news was released on a number of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China that signaled the rise of the coronavirus, growing concerns over a “possible pandemic” began as well. With this information, citizens charged to social media to share their own speculations on the virus’ genesis and behavior. On Jan. 30, the first suspected case of a novel coronavirus was publicized in the Philippines, and this only added fire to the fuel of misinformation.
Generating conspiracy theories, inaccurate prevention methods, and racist propaganda are the last things we want to deal with in the middle of this danger. As the virus has sickened more than 20,000 people and caused at least 400 deaths around the world, we must be more responsible with the information we share. To determine whether the information is real or not, we’ve gathered some of the claims being spread on social media and counter checked them with reliable sources.
A “Chinese spy team” sent the coronavirus to Wuhan from a Canadian research lab
The story: On Jan. 25, Kyle Bass tweeted “A husband and wife Chinese spy team were recently removed from a Level 4 Infectious Disease facility in Canada for sending pathogens to the Wuhan facility. The husband specialized in coronavirus research.” The tweet included a link to a July 2019 article on CBC News, Canada’s publicly-owned news platform. The article, however, made no mention of Wuhan or any shipment of pathogens. Rather, it stated that the Chinese employee was escorted from the lab for a possible policy breach.
Verdict: False. There is no “Chinese spy team.” The origins of the novel coronavirus are still being researched with studies showing that the virus may come from bats and snakes could be a possible source. The World Health Organization (WHO) is still conducting studies and experiments to find the unknown etiology of the virus and create a vaccine for it. In the meantime, don’t use the virus as an excuse to be racist.
The coronavirus dies in high temperatures
The story: On Jan. 28, a post on Facebook circulated that claimed Filipinos should not be scared about the coronavirus because it cannot survive in high temperatures. The Facebook user also tells people to stay under the morning sun and avoid air conditioned spaces. As of writing, the post has more than 17,000 shares.
Verdict: Unconfirmed. The WHO has not released any findings on temperature affecting the spread of the nCOV, and exposure to heat is not on its list of preventive measures. It’s best not to believe and share indefinite claims like this as it may lead to Filipinos no longer taking caution against the virus because of the belief that climate alone will stop it.
The coronavirus can be healed by only garlic
The story: A chain message began circulating on messaging apps stating that a bowl of garlic water can eliminate the coronavirus from the body. It is claimed to be recommended by a Chinese doctor who says it guarantees overnight healing and improvement in health.
Verdict: False. While garlic does have antimicrobial properties, the WHO states that there is no evidence of it being a cure. Moreover, it has stated that there are currently no specific medicines recommended to treat nCOV.
Someone has created a vaccine to stop the coronavirus
The story: News7pm released a breaking news article that declared students of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) have created a vaccine for the coronavirus. It even states that “The team is expected to head to China tonight to assist the country fight the deadly virus.”
Drinking water regularly and avoiding spicy food will protect you from the novel coronavirus
The story: A viral post from a Filipino user claims that simply keeping your throat moist will protect you from the virus. The post also mentions that if your throat is dry, “the virus will invade into your body within 10 mins.” The information is said to have come from the Department of Health (DOH). Currently, the post has a total of more than 16,000 shares.
Verdict: Unconfirmed. There is no mention of this preventive advice on the DOH’s webpage on coronavirus, and the WHO has also made no claims about it. Staying hydrated may generally keep you healthy, but the WHO has made no relations about it being used as a treatment for the nCOV. Rather, they advise you to wash your hands, avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms as well as touching the eyes, mouth, and nose.
The Chinese eating bat soup could be the origin of the coronavirus
The story: Videos of Chinese citizens eating bats circulated on social media during the height of the coronavirus outbreak. One video showed a woman eating a cooked bat and commenting that it tastes like chicken. Another viral video and article posted by The Daily Mail shows a woman biting into a cooked bat at a restaurant. People on social media then blamed the outbreak on these eating habits.
Verdict: False. According to South China Morning Post’s interview with the woman in the first video, it was originally filmed in 2016 and happened in Palau, an archipelago in the Western Pacific Ocean. The Daily Mail videos were also found to have occured in the same archipelago, and not in Wuhan. There are no verified studies and evidence that show any links between these eating habits and the coronavirus. Rather, these claims signal the rise of xenophobia against the Chinese, who are just as much victims of the virus as anyone.
With more and more of these false and misleading news taking social media by storm, it’s best to discern and analyze what we read and watch. Do not believe and share Facebook posts and tabloid articles that do not come from reliable news or government services. Always remember to counter check the information with the WHO, DOH and other verified health services.
Header photo courtesy of Aaron Favila from Inquirer.net
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