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Fact check: COVID-19 is not a ‘smoke screen’ for radiation poisoning

A woman claiming to be a former NHS worker has falsely said on camera that COVID-19 is not contagious and that the virus is merely a cover-up for radiation sickness.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The video’s subject, who said she had worked for a medical equipment company before retraining in “energy medicine”, compared the consequences of COVID-19 and illnesses such as radiation pneumonitis, concluding the former is just a “smoke screen”. (here) .

She says: “None of this is to do with the virus; it’s not a virus, it’s to do with the radiation. And radiation attacks the lungs. It also attacks other parts of the body but the lungs are delicate tissue so they get affected quicker […] If people start reading up on radiation sickness, radiation pneumonitis, radiation exposure, then they’ll realise that all the stuff to do with COVID is the same thing. The COVID thing – the virus – is just a smoke screen.”

This is not true. The symptoms of illnesses like radiation pneumonitis and COVID-19 are similar, but they are entirely different things.

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. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a cough and a fever – similar to those of COVID-19 (here, here, here), a disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2 (here) .

But radiation oncologists Narek Shaverdian and Annemarie Fernandes Shepherd, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, said this is where the similarities trail off (here). “They are caused by very different etiologies,” Shepherd told Reuters, with Shaveridan adding that radiation pneumonitis “has nothing to do with the virus”.

According to Shepherd, both illnesses can show similar findings on CT scans, which can sometimes make diagnoses “challenging,” but it just mean extra caution is necessary.

This, he added, is not unusual. “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,” he said. “Now, we also have to make sure it is not COVID-19.”

The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection has also addressed claims of radiation from electromagnetic fields (EMFs) causing coronavirus – specifically in relation to 5G networks. It has said these claims are neither “feasible” nor “supported by any evidence (not even extremely weak evidence)” (here) .

“As described by the [World Health Organisation (WHO)], you need to physically come into contact with the coronavirus to become infected by it, and as the EMFs from 5G cannot carry viruses, they cannot bring you into contact with the virus.”

Back in the Facebook video, the subject later moves on to claim COVID-19 is not an infectious disease, adding her belief is backed by the WHO). She says: “So ignore the fact that people are going on about a virus. It’s not contagious. Even the WHO have said that it’s not contagious.”

Again, this is untrue. The World Health Organisation has repeatedly stressed the virus can be transmitted from person to person, even when an infected individual is not exhibiting symptoms. The body says: “Laboratory data suggests that infected people appear to be most infectious just before they develop symptoms (namely 2 days before they develop symptoms) and early in their illness (here) .

The main way the virus is believed to transmit is when respiratory droplets from an infected person get into another’s mouth, nose or eyes. This is likely to happen when two people are in close contact with one another (here) .

VERDICT

False. COVID-19 and radiation illnesses are different, with the former being an infectious respiratory illness.

Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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