A viral social media post rehashes an old false claim of the medication containing a rare South American virus.
The post has been circulating in Namibian social media spaces throughout March 2022, but the claim has been floating around on social media for about five years.
The post warns people against using “the paracetamol that comes written P-500” because “doctors advise that it contains “Machupo” virus, which is “considered one of the most dangerous viruses in the world, with a high mortality rate”. The false claim is used to discourage people from using the specific medication targeted.
The false claim has especially been viral in Namibian WhatsApp groups and spaces, and when it came to the attention of Namibia Fact Check it had already been “forwarded many times”.
According to what Namibia Fact Check could establish, the post has been circulating in multiple Namibian Facebook spaces since March 2017, such as this Facebook post dated 20 March 2017.
The post is labelled as “False information” on Facebook.
The Machupo virus causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever. The virus is carried by a rodent species indigenous to Bolivia. There have been a number of Machupo virus outbreaks in parts of Bolivia since the early 1950s, but these outbreaks have largely been limited to specific areas in that country, according to the literature on the virus.
The false claims about a dangerous or deadly virus being spread via medical or pharmaceutical interventions, such as pills or vaccines, exploit people’s real fears of viral outbreaks, especially against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and seek to undermine trust in medical and pharmaceutical interventions and products.