An inmate getting vaccinated against the Covid-19 coronavirus in Insein prison in Yangon. ( MYANMAR NEWS AGENCY / HANDOUT)

Myanmar social media users share misleading Delta variant posts

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Facebook users in Myanmar have shared claims that patients infected with the more transmissible Delta coronavirus variant manifest "new" and "untestable" symptoms. The claims are misleading. Experts say patients infected with the Delta variant show similar symptoms to those infected with other Covid-19 variants, and the symptoms can be detected through nasal swab tests.

The claims were shared here on Facebook on August 2, 2021.

The post's Burmese-language caption translates to English in part as: "New symptoms of Delta Covid virus include neither cough nor fever -- but joint pain, headache, sore throat, pneumonia, weakness and loss of appetite.

"It is different, life-threatening, and has untestable symptoms."

"The variant no longer stays in the nasopharyngeal region and it directly affects the lungs".

"Nasal swab tests often show negative for Covid-19 and there are more and more false results in nasopharyngeal tests".

The Delta variant of Covid-19 was first detected in India after it began circulating in April 2021, AFP reported.

It has spread globally and is thought to be more contagious than Alpha, which itself is more contagious than the strain responsible for the first wave of Covid-19, the report states.

Identical claims about Delta were also shared on Facebook here, here, and here.

But these posts are misleading, according to multiple experts.

Similar symptoms

"It is not true that the Delta variant has no symptoms such as a fever and a cough," Dr. Khin Khin Gyi, director of the Central Infectious Diseases Control Division in Myanmar, told AFP on August 30.

A WHO representative also told AFP that patients infected with Delta exhibit similar symptoms to those with other variants.

"Common symptoms remain a fever, a dry cough, and tiredness," the WHO representative said on August 30.

"Other symptoms include loss of smell and taste, diarrhoea, headache, sore throat, aches and pains, conjunctivitis and rashes."

The purportedly "new" Covid-19 symptoms cited in the misleading posts were already identified on this information page published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as early as May 2020.

Virus tests

The Delta coronavirus variant "definitely stays and replicates in the nasal and throat regions of the host when they get infected," Dr. Thurein Hlaing Win, country manager of healthcare website Hello Sayarwon in Myanmar, told AFP on August 28.

"There is no evidence that the Delta variant cannot be tested by the nasal swab [test]," he said.

"Countries all around the world are still using the nasal swab to detect the COVID infections regardless of their variants".

WHO director Tedros Adhanom in early August has in fact called for "more strategic testing" to control the Delta variant.

"We need more strategic testing to improve the global understanding of where the virus is. Where public interventions are most needed and to isolate cases and reduce transmission," he said in this video.

AFP has previously debunked similar misleading claims about Delta variant symptoms and testing in Spanish and Portuguese.