Hoax linking Covid-19 to bacteria and 5G mobile technology resurfaces in South Africa

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A post shared on Facebook in South Africa claims that Italian doctors have discovered that Covid-19 is not caused by a virus but by bacteria. The message also claims that the World Health Organization (WHO) has banned autopsies on people who have died from Covid-19 and that the disease is exacerbated by 5G technology and can be cured by taking aspirin. But Italy’s health ministry previously told AFP it was a “hoax” and available health research confirms the claims are false.

The post was posted to Facebook on January 3, 2022 and has since been shared nearly 130 times.

Screenshot of fake Facebook post, taken January 12, 2021

A section of the post, written in Afrikaans, translates to: “Italy has become the first country in the world to perform an autopsy on a deceased Covid-19 corpse.”

The post added that the autopsy revealed that Covid-19 is caused by bacteria: “It is not a virus, but a bacteria that causes death.”

The message adds that Italian doctors defied WHO orders and autopsied patients who died of Covid-19. This is how they would have discovered that “a bacterium” causes the disease.

The message further claims that Covid-19 is caused by 5G mobile technology and can be cured with aspirin.

An internet search by AFP Fact Check revealed that the post is not new: Nearly identical copies of the claim have been shared on Facebook in South Africa here, and here since January 2021.

But the claims shared in the posts are false. AFP Fact Check previously debunked posts making similar claims in the Philippines and Nigeria in June 2020 and in Pakistan in April 2021.

Italy’s health ministry told AFP Fact Check in June 2020 that the allegations about Italian doctors were “a hoax”.

Myth of Bacteria

Covid-19 is not caused by bacteria as the post claims, it is caused by a coronavirus named Sars-CoV-2.

The WHO told AFP Fact Check that some people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus “may develop secondary bacterial infection as a complication – this is also common in other viral illnesses”. In such cases, antibiotics may be prescribed.”

The WHO has also debunked the myth that Covid-19 is caused by bacteria, not a virus.

WHO graphic debunks myth that Covid-19 is caused by bacteria

Peer-reviewed studies of patients with Covid-19 in Italy and France have also found that the disease is not bacterial.

WHO does not ban Covid-19 autopsies

The WHO does not prohibit autopsies on people who have died from Covid-19. The world health agency issued guidelines on safety procedures for autopsies of patients who died from Covid-19 in September 2020.

The WHO report indicates that it is possible to perform an autopsy on a body suspected or confirmed to be infected with Covid-19. This is conditional on compliance with certain safety measures to avoid any risk of contamination of the pathologists who perform these autopsies.

Aspirin is not a cure for Covid-19

According to the post, Italian doctors said aspirin could treat Covid-19, however, scientists found no evidence to support this claim.

Aspirin is a commonly used over-the-counter medication for pain relief. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug is useful when used to “reduce the risk of heart attack, clot-related strokes, and other blood flow problems in patients with cardiovascular disease or who have had a heart attack or stroke”.

A WHO study on the effects of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, diclofenac and naproxen on acute respiratory viruses found no evidence that aspirin can cure or treat the Covid-19.

The WHO told AFP Fact Check that “currently there are no authorized treatments for Covid-19”.

The Italian Ministry of Health also specifies on its website that “there is no specific treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Treatment remains primarily based on a symptomatic approach, providing supportive therapies (eg, oxygen therapy, fluid management) to infected individuals, which can nevertheless be very effective.

Covid-19 does not spread via 5G

The fifth generation of cellular networks, known as 5G, refers to a new standard for the internet that promises higher internet connection speeds and quality.

The claim that Covid-19 is linked to 5G mobile technology is not supported by any scientific evidence and has been denied by AFP as a conspiracy theory here, here and here.

The WHO states on its website that “viruses cannot travel over radio waves/mobile networks”.

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), a government agency responsible for monitoring and regulating radiation exposure, wrote in a statement that exposure to radio waves has not been shown to of 5G “affects the immune system or causes other long-term or short-term health effects”.

Covid-19 spreads through droplets when people sneeze, cough, talk or touch contaminated surfaces – not through 5G technology.

The first major outbreak of Covid-19 occurred in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019. It has since spread around the world, killing over 5.5 million people and infecting over 318 million globally. January 13, 2022.

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