VERA FILES FACT CHECK: FB posts saying novel coronavirus is from bats bear FALSE HEADLINE

Update: Facebook page Verter News has corrected their online post on Feb. 18.

A Facebook (FB) page published on Feb. 4 a misleading video claiming in its headline that the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV is confirmed to have come from bats. This is false.

Verter News, a three-month-old FB page that posts “short video news for intelligent people,” uploaded its inaccurate three-minute report with the false headline, “Now It’s Official: Humans Caught Coronavirus from Bats."

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) Q&A page on coronaviruses published on Feb. 2: “The animal source of the 2019-nCoV has not yet been identified.”

The WHO announced on Feb. 11 that COVID-19 will be the official name of the disease caused by the deadly virus.

As of Feb 12, the disease has infected over 45,000 people globally and killed 1,115.

The script of Verter News’s misleading video report was lifted from a Feb. 4 story by British tabloid The Daily Mail headlined, “China's coronavirus DID come from bats: Scientists reveal the virus is 96% identical to one found in the animals and is almost the same as SARS as global death toll hits 362.”

Independent media monitor Media Bias/Fact Check has rated The Daily Mail as a “questionable source” for producing “numerous failed fact checks and poor sourcing of information.”

The content of both The Daily Mail and Verter News did not say bats were “officially” the source of the 2019-nCoV, only that they were “likely” to be its source, based on the findings of a recent study published in the journal Nature by Chinese researchers who found that the new strain of coronavirus is 96% identical to bat coronavirus.

Another study has found similarities between the new virus and bat coronavirus. Like the earlier study, it did not conclude that bats were the source of the 2019-nCoV. Published in the journal The Lancet, the finding of the Chinese researchers “suggests that bats might be the original host of this virus” but it also observed that “an animal sold at the seafood market in Wuhan might represent an intermediate host facilitating the emergence of the virus in humans.”

2019-nCoV was flagged after looking into 44 patients with tuberculosis-like illnesses in December 2019 in Wuhan City in Hubei province, China, now considered the center of the outbreak.

Apart from bats, there have been very recent studies that suggest the pangolin -- a long-snouted, scaly mammal that consumed as food and used in traditional Chinese medicine -- is also a potential host of the 2019-nCoV.

The virus, discovered last Jan. 7, is from the coronavirus family behind the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Several detailed investigations show MERS-CoV, which emerged from Saudi Arabia in 2012, was from dromedary camels, while SARS, identified in 2003, came from civet cats.

The misleading Feb. 4 post carrying a false headline spliced together 27 different clips showing bats, and doctors donning protective gear. The bat videos date to as far back as 2014. Suspenseful, ominous music was laid on top of the video.

Verter News’s misleading video could have reached over 685,000 people, receiving more than 3,000 FB interactions and 4,800 shares. The top traffic generators are Mopays.com and Importer & Exporter Club.

Verter News was created on Nov. 7, 2019.

(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

FOR FURTHER READING

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