A rumor has been spreading that coronavirus patients are turning into zombies and coming back to life. At least one source for the hoax appears to be a prank website called Channel 22, where you can create fake news stories to send to friends to prank them.
Some People Are Creating Hoax Stories About Coronavirus Stories on a Prank Site
Search trends have recently been increasing for phrases like “patient infected with coronavirus comes back to life” or “patient infected with coronavirus turning into zombie.” But when searching for any articles based on the rumors, nothing comes up. Searching on Twitter or Facebook also reveals nothing concrete.
However, hidden among these Google search terms, you can find people searching for Channel 22 News. And that search phrase reveals the source of the rumor.
As you can see in the Google search below, quite a few stories about coronavirus turning people into zombies can be traced back to Channel 22 News.
The headlines include gems like: “Coronavirus can turn you into a zombie,” “Coronavirus has started to mutate People into Zombie-like creatures,” “Covid-19 (Coronavirus) mutates into a zombie like disease,” and “Breaking News a Zombie Has Been Spotted in New York.”
The search results come with convincing sounding descriptions too. One reads: “A zombie has been spotted in New York. Doctors say that the coronavirus has mutated to something serious and is very contagious to humans…”
Or this one: “Sources say that in Chad they found a kid, Carl W. who happened to test positive with Covid-19. Sources are unknown for this, but half of Carl’s head was …”
Then there’s this one: “COVID-19 also known as Coronavirus has rapidly made people feel extremely itchy and given them nausea…”
Some of these include quite a few grammar mistakes that might give them away. But if you see them shared on social media, they look pretty convincing. Here’s what one looks like if it’s shared on Facebook:
Clicking on the story will take you to Channel 22 News, a prank site designed to trick your friends.
The site tells you: “You’ve Been Pranked! You Got Owned! Now Create a Story & Trick Your Friends!”
However, if you want, you can just choose to share the story that tricked you instead of creating a new one. You can share it on many social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Reddit, or other places.
Channel 22 is sometimes quite good at tricking people. Back on March 29, the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management posted a warning about a different story shared by Channel 22, writing: “Channel 22 News is a FAKE NEWS Site that has been causing an overload of calls to our 911 centers. ‘Pranks’ like this are no joke. They pose a very real danger to our citizens and our first responders. Before sharing, please make sure the source is valid!”
It’s worth noting that when the virus was first discovered in China, there were some rumors about patients acting strangely. Express reported in January that disturbing footage showed some patients acting kind of like zombies. At the time, information was strictly locked down in China and it was hard to make sense of what was real and what was not.
Malaysia’s government officials actually took to social media later to share that coronavirus will not turn you into a zombie, after rumors on social media sites there were spreading, The Japan Times reported in February. These early February rumors were likely connected to the late January rumors coming out of China. Malaysia’s health ministry announced: “The claim that individuals infected with this virus will behave like zombies is not true. … Patients can recover.”
Four months ago, one person on Reddit commented about that announcement: “I definitely was not worried about coronavirus turning people into zombies… until this article came out.”
In fact, six people were even arrested in Malaysia for spreading misinformation about coronavirus, The Japan Times reported. Since then, there have been absolutely no signs that coronavirus has any connection to a mythological zombie virus. Those January rumors were the result of information being so strictly locked down in China that it was tough to get the facts.
As for the current rumor, it appears to be tied to the Channel 22 prank site. In fact, anyone can create their own prank on the site if they want.
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