False claim: Coronavirus infections are actually cases of lung inflammation caused by 5G

Facebook users have been sharing posts online that falsely suggest coronavirus cases are misdiagnoses of radiation pneumonitis, caused by the effects of 5G.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples can be seen here, here, and here.

A post on April 2 includes a screenshot of a Google search result listing symptoms of radiation pneumonitis (here).  In the caption, the user references 5G towers: “Google radiation pneumonitis, bit fishy to me? Are we being kept in so they can install these towers or?” 

Public health agencies such as the World Health Organisation and Public Health England say current research has not definitively linked wave frequencies used by 5G technologies with adverse health effects (here, here).

The International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNRP) has said that while 5G frequencies are higher than those used by previous networks, it “will not cause any harm” if the commission’s guidelines are followed (here).

COVID-19 cases are misdiagnoses of radiation pneumonitis - false

Radiation pneumonitis is a form of lung inflammation that can manifest itself in the weeks and months after a person has undergone radiation treatment for cancer.  It does have similar symptoms to COVID-19, including shortness of breath, a cough and a fever (here, here, here). 

Radiation oncologists Narek Shaverdian and Annemarie Fernandes Shepherd, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, told Reuters that any similarity ends there. 

“They are caused by very different etiologies,” Shepherd said, with Shaveridan adding that radiation pneumonitis “has nothing to do with the virus”.

According to Shepherd, it can sometimes be “challenging” to diagnose radiation pneumonitis against COVID-19 because of the similar symptoms and findings on CT scans, so extra caution is recommended. 

A study authored by both oncologists encourages COVID-19 testing on patients who are suspected to have radiation pneumonitis (here). 

But this is not unusual, or a new development, according to Shaverdian: “Before COVID-19, whenever anyone had symptoms of radiation pneumonitis they were often checked to make sure it wasn’t just a cold or another lung infection. Now, we also have to make sure it is not COVID-19.”


False. Radiation pneumonitis is a possible side effect of cancer treatment but it is not linked to 5G or COVID-19. 

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