Quick: A runny nose means you don't have the coronavirus. True or false? If you said true because of something on Facebook, you were likely duped by the so-called "Uncle with master's degree post"—one of several coronavirus canards circulating online. The BBC traced a version back to Feb. 7 that appeared on the group Happy People, which has 2,000 members: "My classmate's uncle and nephew, graduated with a master's degree, and work in Shenzhen Hospital," it reads. "He is being transferred to study Wuhan pneumonia virus. He just called me and told me to tell my friends…" The text is anonymous and mixes fact with fiction, advising people to wash their hands with soap (useful!) while peddling myths about runny noses and liquids with ice.
FullFact and Snopes dismiss several claims in the post, like "Coronavirus pneumonia is a dry cough with no runny nose" (you can have a runny nose) and the coronavirus "will be killed by a temperature of just 26/27 degrees" (that's not confirmed). Other head-scratchers include "try not to drink liquids with ice" and sneezed particles reach "about 10 feet" before hitting the ground (no one knows how far they go). The post has reached hundreds of thousands in slightly different forms, often copied and pasted by users who make it look original. Another popular fake post claims that Bill Gates has said the virus serves "a spiritual purpose," the Independent reports. Facebook and Twitter say they're trying to crack down on misinformation, but meanwhile, the CDC and WHO remain good sources on the coronavirus. (Read more coronavirus stories.)