VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Hantavirus is NOT a ‘new’ virus from China

Amid a string of uploads about COVID-19 in the past two months, a YouTube channel published in April a video about another virus with this false headline and thumbnail: “Hantavirus - New Virus in China from Rats.”

This is wrong. The Hantavirus was discovered and given a name about 40 years ago, although it appears to have been around for at least 70 years. It was not discovered in China.

A virus called Hantaan virus, named after the Hantan river in South Korea, was discovered by scientists in 1978 after isolating it from an infected rodent near the river. It was found to have caused the Korean hemorrhagic fever that affected over 3,000 troops during the Korean War in the 1950s, according to several scientific studies.

The genus “hantavirus,” mainly present in certain species of rodents, was introduced to the family of bunyaviridae viruses in 1981 after the Hantaan virus was successfully replicated in a lab, allowing it to be studied systematically.

Additionally, a 2012 study published in the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Surveillance and Response Journal shows China has been recording cases of a hantavirus-caused disease called hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome since 1970.

YouTube channel The European Times’ misleading upload, viewed over 472,000 times, featured as its content a video of a computer-generated voice reading two paragraphs lifted from a Hantavirus fact sheet from the United States Centers for Disease Prevention and Control website and information on early symptoms of Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome also from the CDC.

Adding to the channel’s dubious characteristics is its About page that is copy-pasted from a verified informational YouTube channel called Biography.

The European Times, created in August 2019, published the inaccurate report after a man reportedly died in China due to hantavirus on March 23. The news came as countries around the world grappled with the pandemic caused by COVID-19 that first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

The European Times’ falsely titled video could have reached over 10 million social media users, with the traffic largely coming from public Facebook groups BBC NEWS, Marian Rivera Dantes Fan and RAFFY TULFO ANG IDOL KONG TOTOO.

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


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About Vera Files

Founded in March 2008, VERA Files is published by veteran Filipino journalists taking a deeper look into current Philippine issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”

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