Coronavirus conspiracy theories: Sorting fact from fiction as speculation reaches fever pitch – National Post

The outbreak of 2019-nCoV in China has led to a fever of a different sort on the internet, with a predictable rise in the number of outlandish theories about how the coronavirus has spread, where it came from and whats going to happen next.

In some areas, those theories are bleeding over into already existing conspiracies about vaccination, suggesting there are some who, if a coronavirus vaccine is developed, will be hesitant to get it. And, research shows those who are already conspiratorially minded are less likely to seek proper medical treatment, instead opting for alternative treatments.

Previous experience with outbreaks have shown that conspiratorial beliefs can make the outbreak harder to contain and treat. Thats what happened In West Africa, when conspiracy theorists claimed the Ebola vaccine would cause infertility.

I think communicating during infectious disease outbreaks is a real challenge, said Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, at the University of Alberta. On the one hand, you DO want to have a robust communication process. You want the world to know about it as the can help contain the outbreak. On the other hand, it can also lead to fear and an overestimation of the actual risk.

In the meantime, its important to discern fact from fiction.

False: Coronavirus came from a Winnipeg microbiology lab

Conspiracy theorists falsely linked the current outbreak to reporting last summer by the National Post and others about a microbiologist, Dr. Xiangguo Qiu, and her research team, all from China, who were escorted from Winnipegs National Microbiology Lab, which handles dangerous pathogens. Despite a complete absence of evidence, the conspiracy theory posits that the 2019-nCoV virus was stolen and sent to China, leading to the outbreak.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has explicitly denied it.

This is misinformation and there is no factual basis for claims being made on social media, said the agency in a statement sent to the National Post.

False: Coronavirus came from Chinas biological warfare program

This theory seems to have originated with a wildly speculative story in the conservative Washington Times newspaper, citing Dany Shoham, a former Israeli intelligence officer.

It is a conspiracy theory that has since made its way around the internet, amplified by Canadas True North Centre and other outlets.

There is, unsurprisingly, no evidence this is the case. PolitiFact, a non-profit fact-checker, rates this claim as false.

The origins of the virus, for what its worth, are likely related to the exotic animal trade at a seafood market in Wuhan.

False: Tens of thousands of people have died

The right-wing Hal Turner Radio Show claimed 23 million people have been quarantined in China, 2.8 million infected and 112,000 have died. This is orders of magnitude larger than the real numbers. The claim on the shows website cited unnamed intelligence sources, and Turner claims he was an FBI employee for 15 years, which he was not.

In other words, there is no reason to believe this.

There are no credible reports that that many people are sick or dead. As on Tuesday, 106 people have died from coronavirus and more than 4,500 people have been infected. But, yes, tens of millions of people have been quarantined in China.

False: University outbreaks

Three Canadian post-secondary schools have had to deal with false information about outbreaks. McMaster University posted a statement saying a fake residence poster was making the rounds online. McMaster has confirmed that this sign was false, and there is no cause for concern. Similarly, social media posts said students at Ryerson University in Toronto had been admitted to hospital with the disease. Ryerson called the posts fake. At Durham College, a picture was being circulated of an ambulance and hazmat suits on campus. The school confirmed that this was NOT the coronavirus.

The origin

Early in the outbreak, there were claims that the outbreak originated with bat soup. A video even did the rounds as purported proof. But according to the BBC, the video is from Wang Mengyun, a travel blogger and show host, and was recorded during a trip to Palau, an archipelago in the western Pacific Ocean.

So if the current virus didnt originate with bats, where did it come from?

Well, itcouldbe bats. Just probably not that video of bat soup.

Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a Monday press briefing that the coronavirus looks similar to coronavirus found in bats.

But that could key word, could just account for the origin. Indeed, the SARS outbreak from 2002-3 was initially traced back to civet cats that were kept for food. But, it goes back further the civet cats got the disease from bats.

The spread to humans from animals still, perhaps, involves the wet market in Wuhan where wild animals and live animals are sold alongside fish and other meat.

But, says Popular Science, we just dont quite know and it could have jumped from animals to humans at some earlier point.

Email: tdawson@postmedia.com | Twitter:

Read more about the Wuhan coronavirus:

Canadians stuck in Chinas coronavirus quarantine zones look for Canadas help to return home

Damned if you, damned if you dont: How well have we responded to the coronavirus threat? The answer is complicated

There is a website that tracks and displays the spread of the coronavirus in real time

Airport screening for viruses is back, despite post-SARS study that found it to be of little use

Listen to our Canadian news podcast, 10/3

More:
Coronavirus conspiracy theories: Sorting fact from fiction as speculation reaches fever pitch - National Post

Related Post

Comments are closed.