Here is all the deliberately misleading information circulating about the coronavirus epidemic.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus 2019-nCoV has been the focus of attention for several weeks now. As of January 29, 2020, the death toll is 6,057 known infected people, 132 deaths and 110 recoveries. The epicentre is in China, especially in Wuhan where it all started, but cases have been taken up elsewhere in the world, including the United States, France, Germany and Japan. Of the 6,057 cases of infection, 87 are outside the borders of China.
Map of coronavirus spread as of January 29, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. // Source: Johns-Hopkins University
The epidemic is therefore far from a pandemic. Although the coronavirus is causing a lot of problems for laboratories, which have not yet developed a vaccine, the situation is under control. However, this subject generates a great deal of concern among the population and a lot of misinformation stems from it. In this article, we refer to all the “fake news” that have already been spotted on the web – a list that we will update if necessary.
The first deliberately misleading information is absurd and has conspiratorial overtones, yet it has been widely circulated on social networks. Several Facebook posts, and a few tweets, shared hundreds of times, claim that the coronavirus 2019-nCoV was created by a US company in 2003 and then spread around the world to sell vaccines. The publications support this misinformation on the basis of incomplete screenshots of a patent filed in 2003.
Except that, if this patent does exist, it has absolutely nothing to do with 2019-nCoV which is currently in force and which emerged at the end of December 2019 in Wuhan. In fact, the patent concerns the SARS-CoV virus, which had triggered an epidemic in 2002 / 2003 – for which vaccines had been found. These Facebook and Twitter postings therefore create a false link between two distinct things and their conclusion is just as radically wrong.
- What is important to remember: no, the coronavirus 2019-nCoV was not created by the Americans or “created” at all, this new strain emerged at the end of December 2019 after a probable mutation within bats and/or snakes. No vaccine has yet been found, but research is advancing.
In the age of social networks, at every major event there are sometimes videos and photos that have nothing to do with it. This is the case for the 2019-nCoV epidemic, so don’t rely on all the images you come across.
A video seen 28 million times in just a few days (according to AFP) is supposed to show the market in Wuhan, the focus of the epidemic. It was indeed in a market in Wuhan, China, that the coronavirus passed from animals to humans. There were all kinds of animals, living and dead. However, this widely distributed video does not show this market at all: the images can be traced back to a Youtube video [shocking images, editor’s note] from July 2019 and it is in fact a market located in Indonesia.
- What should be remembered: videos and images that are not broadcast by an official account or verified by a recognized media are not reliable sources, just like this video which does not actually show the cheap. You have to take what you see (computer graphics, numbers, pictures) with care.
It started out as a joke on social networks, but against the backdrop, the idea is spreading: “Will I get coronavirus if I receive a package from China, ordered on AliExpress or Amazon?” many Internet users ask themselves.
However, there is no need to worry about this, for two reasons. First of all, the contagion is aerosol: the coronavirus is transmitted by “sputum”, so to catch it by human-to-human contagion, you have to talk within a meter of someone who is infected; or that person coughs or sneezes on you. Today, there is no scientific evidence of contagion by any other means.
The other reason is also related to the profile of the coronavirus: it only survives for a few hours in an external environment (outside any host). It takes well over a few hours to transport a parcel from China to France. In fact, the Ministry of Health states that “the risk of becoming infected with nCoV by touching an object imported from China is considered to be extremely low.
- What should be remembered: the coronavirus contaminates by aerosol transmission and only survives for a few hours in an outdoor environment, the risk of catching it from a package received from China is almost nil.
- Read: Chinese virus epidemic: what are the real risks in France and how to protect yourself?
Since the announcement of the epidemic, pharmacies have seen their stocks of protective masks being robbed. It is a good thing that sick people with symptoms such as fever or cough wear such a mask. Even without symptoms, it is better to wear this mask if you are returning from China.
It’s also a good idea to wear the mask if, conversely, you have symptoms but have not returned from China. This avoids any possible spread of 2019-nCoV but also generally prevents the spread of normal influenza – in the context, an epidemic of seasonal influenza would add to the psychosis.
However, wearing the mask if you are not sick, as a protection, is of no use at all. Contaminating someone with an aerosol and being contaminated with an aerosol does not follow the same process. In conclusion, this is neither a recommended measure nor a protection based on any basis.
- The important thing to remember is that if you are not sick and have not returned from China, there is no need to wear a mask to protect yourself. On the other hand, in this context, if you are ill it is recommended to wear a mask to protect others, the same if you are returning from China.
Keeping track of information on a topic that is so topical can be complex. The balance sheet evolves in parallel with our knowledge of the coronavirus. To find your way around, we recommend the famous interactive map updated in real time, thanks to which you can have all the current data on the spread of the coronavirus.
In general, we invite you not to take into consideration what is disseminated on social networks without being supported by sources that have verified the content: an official site or a recognized information media. We also invite you to look regularly at our section dedicated to the coronavirus.