May 14, 2020 / 8:28 PM / 19 days ago

False claim: Coronavirus is not a contagious illness 

A claim is being made within some social media posts that falsely suggests the novel coronavirus is not a contagious illness. 

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

One post from May 10, which has generated comments from multiple users, captures a screenshot of an article headlined: “The Deception of Virology & Vaccines | Why Coronavirus Is Not Contagious”. The article is from a website called The Bernician, which appears to be a blogging platform for an individual who describes himself as a comedian. The article includes a disclaimer at the top stating that it is a “re-post” of an anonymous email the author has received (here).

The article makes various claims about the germination of a virus and its use to enforce “police state style laws” around the world in relation to COVID-19. These claims are outside the scope of this check, which will only focus on the headline claim that the coronavirus is not contagious.

Echoing the sentiment from the headline captured in the screenshot, a user  comments: “If it was ‘contagious’ we would have seen a real pandemic” (here). 

It is false for the headline to suggest that COVID-19 is not infectious. 

Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College London, told Reuters that COVID-19 is “definitely contagious”, and said it was preferable to refer to it as being “directly transmitted from person to person”. 

He added: “The virus can only reproduce in animal cells, and it dies pretty quickly outside the human body.” 

Riley said the reproductive value or “R number”, which refers to the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus to, is a key factor in gauging the spread of the disease. “When first transmitted in the UK in mid-February/early March, this was growing with three new infections to every one person infected,” he added. 

According to the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 is transmitted between people through “small droplets from the nose or mouth” that are expelled through coughs, sneezes or speech, and are inhaled by others. 

The droplets can also land on surfaces, which, if touched and applied to a person’s eyes, nose or mouth, can also cause an infection (here).

This transmissibility isn’t exclusive to COVID-19 when discussing viruses, according to Riley. “[Viruses] can’t reproduce without a host cell,” he said. “A virus is basically a little capsule with [ribonucleic acid] RNA inside it [...] the capsule sticks onto the outside of the cell and manages to get ingested, where it releases the viral RNA. It then uses the cell’s machinery to replicate itself.”  

VERDICT 

False. Coronavirus strains and other viruses are contagious and are transmitted from person to person. 

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here

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