Tourists wearing protective face masks at the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India in January 2020. (AFP / Pawan Sharma)

Indian health authority refutes hoax report of coronavirus case in Uttar Pradesh district

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A claim that a man infected with an acute case of novel coronavirus has been admitted to a hospital in a town in Uttar Pradesh, India has been shared multiple times on Facebook and Twitter. This claim is false; the district’s health authority said there are no confirmed novel coronavirus patients in the area.

The claim was made on Facebook here on February 7, 2020. Below is a screenshot of the misleading post:

The Hindi post translates to English as: “The condition of a man in Barhalganj remains serious due to coronavirus. He was admitted to a local hospital when his condition started deteriorating and it was found during the treatment that the virus entered his body after eating chicken. I request you all with folded hands, please do not consume any type of meat and pay attention to cleanliness. Forward this message through WhatsApp to make other people aware. Thank you.”

Barhalganj is a small town in Uttar Pradesh’s Gorakhpur district.

The claim was also shared here, here, here and here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

As of February 24, 2020, the coronavirus has killed over 2,400 people and infected more than 80,000 globally, AFP reported.

However, the claim about a confirmed infection in Barhalganj is false.

“There are no confirmed novel coronavirus patients in the district,” Dr. Shrikant Tiwari, the Chief Medical Officer of Gorakhpur district, told AFP by phone on February 20, 2020. “We had kept 35 people out of 43 who had returned to Gorakhpur from abroad since 10 January under strict observation, but all of them have been tested negative.” 

Local media reports, for example here and here in Hindi, also confirmed Dr. Tiwari’s statement.

Meanwhile, the Indian government’s Poultry Development Organization told AFP it was “absolutely wrong” and there is “no evidence” that novel coronavirus has been detected in poultry.

Nationwide, India has only recorded three cases of novel coronavirus, all of which were in the southern Indian state of Kerala. All three patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, the Ministry of Health announced on February 21, 2020.