A viral message claiming to inform people about the ill-effects of the Paracetamol P-500 tablet and how it contains the Machupo virus is false. BOOM found that the claims are false and the hoax has been revived several times since 2017.
The Machupo virus is identified through symptoms such as fever, headache, and seizures, among others. It was first identified in Bolivia around 1959 and has a mortality rate of about 25 to 35%. The paracetamol tablet is usually used in India to treat minor pains, such as body and headaches, and is categorised as a mild analgesic.
The viral post is being shared with the caption, "URGENT WARNING! Be careful not to take the paracetamol that comes written P / 500. It is a new, very white and shiny paracetamol, doctors advise that it contains "Machupo" virus, considered one of the most dangerous viruses in the world, with a high mortality rate. Please share this message, with all people on your contact list as well as family, and save a life or lives ... Forward as received."
Hoax Revived Over The Years
Several Facebook posts over the years have claimed to inform about this hoax. Earliest claims came from 2017, and continued in 2018 and during the pandemic in 2020, 2021, before being revived recently. The posts have been shared with the same caption in almost all instances, with some of them sharing photos of patients with red spots and allergies to claim that they have been affected by the tablet.
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This hoax has also circulated in countries other than India, such as Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Nigeria.
BOOM also received the viral message on its WhatsApp Helpline (7700906588)
BOOM found that the viral message is a hoax, and that the paracetamol tablet cannot carry the Machupo virus.
A keyword search on Google led us to an announcement put out by the Health Sciences Authority of Singapore on August 2, 2017 regarding the matter. It refuted the claims about the transmission of the virus through the paracetamol tablet and read, "The “Machupo” virus infection is contracted by direct contact with the virus, which has been shown to be transmitted mainly by the saliva, faeces and urine of infected rodents."
It further added, "HSA assures the public that the content of the hoax “alert” is inaccurate and is not a cause for concern. Anyone who receives the hoax “alert” should not forward it to others as the information is untrue."
A similar press release by the National Drug Authority in Uganda clarified, "The Machupo virus like many others cannot survive the paracetamol tablets manufacturing process."
Another notification from the Food and Drug Authority in Indonesia read, "(the agency) has never received a credible report supporting the claim that the Machupo virus has been found in Paracetamol drug products or other drug products."
BOOM spoke to Dr Arun Kumar, Delhi-based General Physician and founder of United Doctors Front Association, who refuted the viral claim. "The Machupo virus only spreads through direct contact-- saliva, faeces, urine of infected rodents, etc.," he said while informing that cases of the Machupo virus were only seen in South America. "A virus needs a certain culture system to develop; for instance, some viruses grow in hot climates, others in cold. The same is not possible in the case of a tablet," he added.
A closer look at the first image of the man with his back to the camera also shows a text on the hospital bedsheet which reads, 'S.M.S. Hospital Jaipur- 2015'
The bedsheet indicates that the man might be in Jaipur, however, there are no known cases of the Machupo virus in India.
A reverse image search of the woman in the second photo led us to the YouTube channel of Paula Scopel, who has documented her journey of battling Stevens Johnsons syndrome, a rare skin disorder. A video uploaded on her channel on October 27, 2016, with the title 'Síndrome de Stevens Johnson - Paula Scopel' contains images of her throughout her treatment and the image at the 0:21 mark is an exact match to our viral image.
Here is a comparison:
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