BBC: China coronavirus - Misinformation spreads online about origin and scale

31 January, 2020

Extracts below. Full text here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-trending-51271037

'At least 170 people have died as a result of the outbreak of a new coronavirus,

The number of confirmed cases of the virus in China has risen to 7,711 and infections have been reported in at least 15 other countries.

But not only has the virus spread, so too has misinformation.

Numerous conspiracies have appeared since the outbreak - not to mention dubious health advice...

One such claim - shared 16,000 times on Facebook - advises users in the Philippines to "keep your throat moist", avoid spicy food and "load up on vitamin C" in order to prevent the disease.

The information is said to be from the country's Department of Health but it does not match the advice on the DOH website or its official press releases on the outbreak...

Another unsubstantiated claim shared online suggests avoiding cold or preserved food and drinks, such as ice cream and milkshakes, for "at least 90 days"...

As the United States reported its first case of the coronavirus last week, several patent documents started to circulate on Twitter and Facebook that at first glance appear to suggest experts have been aware of the virus for years.

One of the first users to float these allegations was conspiracy theorist and YouTuber Jordan Sather... Sather used the fact that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a donor to both Pirbright and vaccine development to suggest that the current outbreak virus has somehow been deliberately manufactured to attract funding for the development of a vaccine...

Another baseless claim that has gone viral online suggests the virus was part of China's "covert biological weapons programme" and may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology...

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Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Citizens, Parents and Children

http://www.hifa.org/projects/citizens-parents-and-children

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org