The spread of a respiratory virus in China is blamed on social media misinformation, according to a press release from the National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The government agency says "one suspicious death" — believed to be of a 21-year-old who died from pneumonia and viral meningitis on Feb. 8, and whose death was reported on social media — was blamed on "spread of online rumours about PRC scientists."
In other words, the early spread of rumors, like the one that the death was attributed to the coronavirus, was blamed on "internet rumours," not on outbreaks in China.
In the statement, which was first posted on Chinese internet news site CNTV, the health commission said: "Rumours on (the) internet don't have any foundation" and the investigation into the source of the rumors "is still in progress."
Their statements follow a high-profile announcement from the United Kingdom's national health services last week that a negative reaction to a new online ad campaign on the 2010 SARS outbreak in China was responsible for the increased frequency of suspicious deaths.