Since the beginning of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, which has now grown to infect 79,000 and kill over 2,000, Chinese authorities have attempted to deflect attention away from the crisis by comparing it to the American flu season . Some claim that influenza, which has killed over 16,000 people this year , is more deadly than the coronavirus.
Now, new conspiracy theories claim that it may actually be the coronavirus.
According to Chinese state-run media, some Chinese speculate that Americans who died of the flu may have unknowingly become infected with the deadly Covid-19 – which they claim is spreading undetected in the United States.
Some even speculate that infected Americans brought the illness to China.
This comes at a time when U.S. authorities have begun testing individuals with influenza-like symptoms for coronavirus. Currently, the United States has tested 414 people for Wuhan coronavirus with only 14 confirmed to be infected.
Some analysts believe the scale of the coronavirus outbreak may be wider than currently reported. This is because cases are cropping up with no direct link to mainland China. In addition to the roughly 77,600 cases confirmed in China , the disease has grown to infect 602 in South Korea, 155 in Italy and 43 in Iran.
The cases in Iran are particularly troubling because the death toll doesn’t seem to match the number of confirmed cases.
Despite only 43 confirmed cases in Iran, eight Iranians have already died from the Wuhan Coronavirus. In comparison, there are 1,343 confirmed infections in Guangdong province, China, but only six have died. The high death rate in Iran suggests the coronavirus could already be spreading uncontrollably in the country.
Some Chinese netizens believe the coronavirus could also be spreading uncontrollably in the U.S. Their wild theories assert that Americans could be mistaking the disease for influenza.
According to the Global Times, a report from Japan’s TV Asahi Corporation claims that some of the 16,000 Americans who died of influenza during the flu season may have unknowingly contracted the Wuhan coronavirus. They argue that the United States misrecorded these deaths as influenza while they were actually Covid-19.
Chinese netizens took the story and ran with it. Global Times reports their commentary:
Perhaps the US delegates brought the coronavirus to Wuhan, and some mutation occurred to the virus, making it more deadly and contagious, and causing a widespread outbreak this year.
These reports build upon earlier conspiracies in Russian media that outrightly suggest the U.S. government may have intentionally created the Wuhan coronavirus to wage economic warfare on China.
The theories are, apparently, so widespread in Russia that several Russian political leaders speak about them openly.
While many are quick to compare Covid-19 with influenza, the two diseases are not very similar.
Influenza kills a huge number of people each year, but its fatality rate has been around 0.05% so far this season. In comparison, Covid-19 has reached death rates as high as 2.9% in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The new disease seems to overwhelm hospital infrastructure because of the severity of its symptoms.
According to data , Covid-19 puts around 20% of patients in critical condition, with many going on to develop pneumonia.
Even though most Covid-19 patients survive, their symptoms are severe enough to send them to the ICU. In comparison, most influenza patients have symptoms mild enough that they can recover at home.
Needless to say, if the United States were dealing with an uncontrolled coronavirus outbreak, authorities would have noticed it by now.
This comes at a time when the online information war is heating up. Governments are increasingly using online media to promote national agendas and damage the reputations of their adversaries.
Recently, the United States forced several Chinese news organizations to register as agents of the Chinese government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. China has also expelled several Wall Street Journal reporters from Beijing, accusing the outlet of racist reporting in its coverage of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
The Global Times report looks to be the latest in an escalating tit-for-tat between competing governments. But it should encourage Americans to be more vigilant about the new and deadly Covid-19.