The World Health Organization confirmed that the new coronavirus outbreak that happened in Wuhan, China, in early January is not considered a pandemic.
However, lies and erroneous theories are quickly spreading and infecting the internet.
Chinese news reported that the newly discovered virus infected more than 800 people and has now killed at least 26 since Dec. 31, 2019.
Now, supporters of QAnon – a far-right conspiracy theory group associated with supporters of Donald Trump – have teamed up with the anti-vax community to spread the false rumor that former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates is responsible for the coronavirus outbreak.
Jordan Sather, a QAnon member and YouTuber, warned followers about the coronavirus, calling it a "new fad disease" and that the release of the virus was "planned."
The hoax caught on like wildfire and spread across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
According to Buzzfeed News, Sather's accusation traces back to a 2015 patent filed by the Pirbright Institute in Surrey, England, which studied the weakened form of the coronavirus and its potential to be used as a vaccine to cure respiratory diseases in birds and other animals.
Taking viruses and bacteria and weakening them is the standard process by which vaccines are made.
Sather – who has over 100,000 followers – tweeted:
"The assignee of this patent was the government-funded Pirbright Institute out of the UK."
"Was the release of this disease planned? Is the media being used to incite fear around it? Is the Cabal desperate for money, so they're tapping their Big Pharma reserves?"
One of the many issues pertaining to Sather's theory is the fact that Pirbright's study does not work with a strain of the coronavirus affecting humans.
This is because the patent is limited to the avian coronavirus, which only affects birds.
Dr. Erica Bickerton – who studies avian pathology for Pirbright – was alerted to the deceptive rumors and clarified that the patent was initiated to study how the avian coronavirus replicated in chickens and chicken cells, not in humans.
"The name coronavirus is a whole family of viruses. Each of these viruses has their own characteristics."
"The work we do focuses on an avian coronavirus that affects chickens."
Teresa Maughan, a spokesperson for Pirbright, emphasized that the patented work was not funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
"The patented work cited in the conspiracy theories involved infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) only, and we made four changes in the gene responsible for replicating the virus's genetic material."
"This has weakened the virus so it is no longer able to cause disease and has potential to be used as a vaccine, but has not yet been developed."
"The patented work was completed in 2015 and is not funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
But QAnon remained steadfast in their misguided mission. They attached links to Pirbright's patent to disseminate their hoax through their various network of Facebook groups.
One member from the Facebook group, United States for Medical Freedom, wrote:
"This is a man-made, patented virus with a vaccine in the works. Here's the link to the patent."
"So back in Nazi Germany, Hitler didn't want anyone to wake up to his deceit. So he had Jews in every neighborhood give the S.S. intel. Kind of like facebook reporting our comments."
Facebook Group "QAnon QClearance 8chan + related articles 2 Staqe 2" also attached a link to Pirbright's patent.
Facebook screeshot via @broderick/Twitter
Google searches linking the Pirbright Institute to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation which granted $5.5 million to study livestock antibodies, prompted Sathers to tweet:
"And would you look at that, some of [Pirbright's] major funders are the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."
Other conspiracy theorists commented:
"Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation one of the primary owners. Deep State released the virus to create chaos since nothing stopping Trump."
Last week, the U.S. reported its first case of the virus afflicting an unnamed man in his thirties living in the state of Washington. A woman in her 60s from Chicago became the second U.S. citizen to be afflicted with the virus.
Both have visited and returned from the outbreak's origin city of Wuhan.
Meanwhile, Sathers continues to spread his erroneous theory about the coronavirus.
In a post on Wednesday, he wrote:
"You see how they try to implant thoughts into your head? fear sells."
So, don't buy it.
Listen to George Takei's Oh Myyy Pod podcast episode Conspiracy Theories and Theorists to find out how these theories take hold and get spread like a virus online.