VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Viral photo of baby ‘Kyle’ diagnosed with COVID-19 NOT TRUE

Filipino netizens are being tricked into believing a false Facebook post that is harvesting likes and shares. It maliciously uses a photo of a baby who had chest surgery and falsely claims he was recently diagnosed with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

This is not true. The photo, taken in August 2012, features New Zealander Cameron Bartle just two days after he underwent his first open-heart surgery at five days old. He is now seven years old.

The untrue post was published May 16 by a netizen in two impostor Facebook groups using the name of game show host Willie Revillame -- Willie Revillame...JOIN HERE and TUTOK to Win - sa Wowowin GMA TV Live Show.

It currently has over 16,300 shares collectively. A look at the groups’ posts also shows it has a history of phishing personal information of netizens.

Inviting readers to share it to five other FB groups so the baby can “get [as] many prayers as possible,” the fallacious posts embellished Cameron’s backstory for their scheme and changed his name to “Kyle.”

The photo used in the posts could be first traced back online to a January 2014 article where Cameron’s mother, Rachel, detailed her child’s experience being born with hypoplastic right heart syndrome, a rare heart condition where the right side of a newborn’s heart is underdeveloped.

A more high-definition copy of the photo was published July last year in a blog post about a woman who donated fundraising proceeds to the Bartles. It also carried updated photos of Cameron.

The false posts started circulating around the same time the World Health Organization reported how COVID-19 is manifesting in children: a multisystem inflammatory syndrome that has features similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome.

The earliest version of the inaccurate FB posting is a May 15 upload of a now-taken-down FB page called Invite 100 friends and get 2k likes on your profile pic and posts. Before getting deleted, it got 89,000 mostly-Like-and-Love reactions and 95,000 shares. There was also an outpouring of prayers for the baby in the comments section.

Willie Revillame...JOIN HERE was created just last April 12, while TUTOK to Win - sa Wowowin GMA TV Live Show was made three days later.

(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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