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HOAX ALERT: No, headache pills in Nigeria aren’t laced with the Machupo virus

This article is more than 5 years old

An over-the-counter headache pill could infect you with a deadly virus, warns a message circulating on social media.

The alert popped up in January 2019 on Africa Check’s Nigeria Whatsapp group, which we created together with Nigerian media partners to track false information about health.

The message reads: “URGENT WARNING! Be careful not to take any paracetamol with the name P/500. It is new, very white and shiny paracetamol.” Paracetamol is a common medicine used to treat mild to moderate pain and fever.

The message continues: “Doctors advise that it contains ‘Machupo’ virus considered to be one of the most dangerous viruses in the world, with a high mortality rate.”


Machupo virus only found in South America

Infection by the Machupo virus results in a disease known as Bolivian haemorrhagic fever. The disease’s symptoms include fever, muscle pains, bleeding gums and seizures. But it has only occurred a few times in South America.

People only get the virus if they come into contact with the saliva, urine or faeces of infected rodents.

Dr Olumuyiwa Odusote, secretary-general of the Nigerian Medical Association, told Africa Check it wasn’t possible for people to get the virus from a pill, like paracetamol.

“I seriously think the alert isn’t true. Such a virus cannot survive outside a living organism.”

Christiana Obiazikwor, public relations officer for the National Agency for Food and Drug  Administration and Control, said the organisation wasn’t aware of any paracetamol laced with the Machupo virus.


Just another old hoax

This isn’t the first time this hoax has made the rounds. Fact-checking site Snopes has debunked it, as have a clutch of news websites such as Bangalore Mirror, the Quint and the Star

If you’ve seen a false claim to do with health circulating in Nigeria, send it to us on WhatsApp on +2349083777789

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