Health officials are urging Canadians to be careful about what they believe online amid a coronavirus outbreak.
Dr. Sohail Gandhi, president of the Ontario Medical Association, warned that not all social media posts on health care come from reliable sources, and claims about the coronavirus are no different.
“In health care, in general right now, we are struggling a little bit to combat misinformation about health care from social media and from all fronts and I don’t suspect this will be any different,” said Gandhi.
Several inaccurate posts about the coronavirus, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, have been reported online in the past weeks, many of which have caused confusion among members of the public seeking facts on the situation.
Here’s a look at some common misconceptions surrounding the virus, and what experts say is actually fact.
This claim was made in a viral tweet, which also spread to other social media networks. The original tweet by Jordan Sather calls the Wuhan coronavirus a “new fad disease,” but said a patent for it was actually filed in 2015 and approved in 2018.
First, there is no one coronavirus. It’s actually an umbrella term for a family of different viruses, which, for example, also included SARS.
The full name of the current form of coronavirus under outbreak is the 2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV.
In his tweet, Sather links to a patent filed in July 2015 by the Pirbright Institute, a research firm in the U.K. that studies infectious diseases of farm animals. That patent actually looked at respiratory diseases in birds and other animals and the potential to create a vaccine.
On Jan. 24, the institute wrote about misinformation associated with its research on its website.
“The Pirbright Institute carries out research on infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), a coronavirus that infects poultry, and porcine deltacoronavirus that infects pigs. Pirbright does not currently work with human coronaviruses,” the post read.
While the definitive origin of the new strain of coronavirus is under investigation, some of the first cases have been linked to a seafood market in Wuhan.