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HomeFact CheckOld ‘Misleading’ Advisory Against XBB Variant Goes Viral On Whatsapp Amid Recent...

Old ‘Misleading’ Advisory Against XBB Variant Goes Viral On Whatsapp Amid Recent Surge In Covid Cases

Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

Claim
Advisory cautioning residents against the new coronavirus variant, triggering the recent surge in cases across India.

Fact
Advisory found to be fake and has been in circulation since 2022.

The Union health ministry in India has recently urged states to step up Covid surveillance, following the detection of a new variant, JN.1, in the country after its spread in Singapore, US and China. While it is not clear if the JN.1 variant is a cause for worry yet, India has witnessed a spurt in cases with around 252 new infections reported across the country in a week.

Amid the spike in infections, an advisory has gone viral on Whatsapp, urging residents to exercise extra caution over the “different, deadly” variant. We received this forward on our Whatsapp tipline (9999499044), too, requesting us to fact-check it.

Here is the Whatsapp forward:

Singapore News!

Everyone is advised to wear a mask because the new COVID-Omicron XBB variant of the coronavirus is different, deadly and not easy to detect properly:-

Symptoms of the new virus COVID-Omicron XBB are as follows:-

1. No cough.

2. No fever.

There will just be a lot :-

3. Joint pain.

4. Headache.

5. Neck pain.

6. Upper back pain.

7. Pneumonia.

8. Generally no appetite.

Of course, COVID-Omicron XBB is 5 times more virulent and has a higher death rate than the Delta variant.

The condition takes a shorter time to reach extreme severity, sometimes without obvious symptoms.

Let’s be more careful!

This type of virus does not reside in the nasopharyngeal area and directly affects the lungs, namely the “window”, in a relatively short time.

Several patients diagnosed with Covid Omicron XBB were finally classified as having no fever, no pain, but X-ray results showed mild chest pneumonia.

Nasal swab tests frequently provide negative results for COVID-Omicron XBB, and cases of nasopharyngeal tests providing false negative results are increasing.

This means that the virus can spread in the community and directly infect the lungs, causing viral pneumonia which can cause acute respiratory stress.

This explains why Covid-Omicron XBB is very contagious, very virulent and deadly.

Please note, avoid crowded places, keep a distance of 1.5 m even in open spaces, wear a two-layer mask, use a suitable mask, and wash your hands frequently if everyone is asymptomatic (not coughing or sneezing).

Covid Omicron “WAVE” is more deadly than the first wave of Covid-19. So we have to be very careful and take all kinds of coronavirus precautions.

Also maintain vigilant communication with your friends and family.

Don’t keep this information to yourself, share it with as many other relatives and friends as possible, especially your own family and friends.

Fact Check

Newschecker noticed that the Whatsapp forward is about the Omicron XBB variant, while the JN.1 variant is considered to be a descendent of the Omicron sub-variant BA.2.86 or Pirola, which was first detected in Luxembourg in August 2023. We learnt that the XBB is a recombined subvariant, a sub-lineage of the Omicron variants BA.2.10.1 and BA.2.75, first identified in August 2022, which indicates the viral forward is old.

Taking a cue from this, we ran a relevant keyword search, which led us to this tweet by the Ministry of Health, dated December 22, 2022, stating that the message circulating in some Whatsapp groups regarding the XBB variant is fake and misleading. Several media outlets, too, reported on the ministry debunking the viral claim that the XBB sub-variant of Omicron is “5 times more virulent than the Delta variant and has a higher mortality rate”. The reports can be seen here, here and here.

An analysis by an expert group of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in October 2022 reportedly said, “There has been a broad increase in prevalence of XBB in regional genomic surveillance… The current data do not suggest there are substantial differences in disease severity.”

“Social media users in Singapore are copy-pasting a text post which warns that the COVID-19 Omicron XBB variant, first discovered in August, is five times more “toxic” and has a higher mortality rate than the Delta variant. However, there is no evidence to support this, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Health. Likewise, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says current data does not suggest XBB is more deadly than Omicron, which itself is less lethal than Delta,” read a Reuters fact-check on the Whatsapp forward published on November 11, 2022.

Also Read: 2018 Video Of Italian PM Saying Islam And Europe Have Compatibility Problem Shared As Recent

Conclusion

Viral Whatsapp advisory stating the Omicron XBB variant has higher mortality rate, or is five times more ‘toxic’, found to be old and misleading.

Result: False

Sources
Tweet, Ministry of Health, December 22, 2022
Reuters report, November 11, 2022


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Authors

Kushel HM is a mechanical engineer-turned-journalist, who loves all things football, tennis and films. He was with the news desk at the Hindustan Times, Mumbai, before joining Newschecker.

Pankaj Menon is a fact-checker based out of Delhi who enjoys ‘digital sleuthing’ and calling out misinformation. He has completed his MA in International Relations from Madras University and has worked with organisations like NDTV, Times Now and Deccan Chronicle online in the past.

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