The spurt in Covid-19 in neighbouring China, Japan, and the US has also led to a rise on Covid-19 misinformation.
The latest is a viral WhatsApp forward warning users about the symptoms and precautions concerning the new ‘XBB omicron variant’.
The viral message claims that “The new virus COVID- Omicron XBB is 5 times more virulent than the delta variant and has a higher mortality rate”. Further, it reads “the symptoms of the new XBB variant does not include having cough or fever but a limited number of joint pain, headache, upper back pain, neck pain, and pneumonia will be its symptoms.”
The full message can be seen and read below.
Newschecker also received the same claim by multiple users on our WhatsApp tipline (+91 9999499044) requesting it to be fact-checked.
On investigation, Newschecker found a tweet by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare clarifying that the viral message was fake. “This message is circulating in some Whatsapp groups regarding the XBB variant of #COVID19. The message is #FAKE and #MISLEADING,” the tweet read.
We also found another tweet by DIPR Kathua also calling this viral message to be fake.
The XBB variant was first detected on August 13, 2022, and the latest available information regarding its severity and reinfection risk is from an October 2022 report. W.H.O.’s Technical Advisory Group examined early evidence from Singapore, India and a few other countries and found that there was no evidence to indicate that XBB variant caused heightened disease severity. “While further studies are needed, the current data do not suggest there are substantial differences in disease severity for XBB* infections,” it read.
Furthermore, the XBB variant is a sublineage of the Omicron variant, which, according to studies, is less severe than the Delta variant. Thus, the claim that it is five times more virulent than the Delta variant is not true.
Newschcecker also reached out to Dr R Gangakhedkar, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research, who confirmed that the claims made in the viral message were not factual.
“Unlike what was mentioned in the viral message, XBB do have similar symptoms like any other omicron variant and this variant is well diagnosed. People affected by the XBB variant suffer from fever, cough and mild body pain, all continue to be milder symptoms. But in no way is the variant more dangerous than the delta variant. XBB variant has far lesser number of hospitalisation and mortality rate and this variant is not new to India,” Dr Gangakhedkar said.
“When any genome sequencing data is released, some people take a term out of it and create unnecessary fear through fake news over social media,” he further commented.
Furthermore, on taking stock of the latest updates on the W.H.O. website which has been actively tracking variants of concern since the pandemic began, we found that Omicron remains to be the current variant of concern, specifically its B.1.1.529 lineage variant, and not the XBB variant.
Newschecker found the viral message being shared over social media about the new XBB variant of Covid-19 as false.
Tweet by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, on December 22, 2022
Tweet by Information & PR, Kathua, on December 22, 2022
Press note by WHO on October 22, 2022
Conversation with Dr R Gangakhedkar, former head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at the Indian Council of Medical Research
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