In late January 2020, Facebook user Andy Freeman posted a picture of the back of a bottle of Dettol, which states in the small print that it kills the “human coronavirus”. He wrote underneath: “Well, well, well. Corona Virus on a Dettol bottle! Anyone would think they were forewarned.”
The post has since been shared more than a thousand times.
While many in the comments section below were quick to point out that coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes a range of different respiratory illnesses, the post implies that the new strain was anticipated or older than reported.
Facebook responded to the post by adding a “related article” written by independent fact-checking site FullFact. It comes after the social network said it is building on existing efforts to tackle dangerous conspiracy theories, such as false suggestions that drinking bleach cures the virus.
Full Fact said the claim “doesn’t mean that Dettol spray can kill the new coronavirus identified in Wuhan”. It said: “A photo of the back of a Dettol bottle, which mentions that it kills ‘human coronavirus’, has been shared on Facebook over a thousand times.
“The implication seems to be that the new coronavirus observed in Wuhan, China is not new, or was somehow anticipated.
“Coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes the common cold, and it is likely this the label is referring to.”
RB makes statement
RB, the company that owns the Dettol brand, has made an official statement to clarify that the claim on the back of the bottles only concerns more common variants of the virus, not the potentially deadly strain in China.
“RB has become aware of speculation about Dettol products and the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus,” the statement of the company said. “As this is an emerging outbreak, RB, like all manufacturers, doesn’t yet have access to the new virus (2019-nCoV) for testing and, as a result, are not yet in a position to confirm levels of effectiveness against the new strain.
“Our products have been tested against other coronaviruses (such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) and have been found to kill those,” the statement said.
RB pledges $7.15 million
Before the social media hubbub, RB made the following announcement on Jan. 27, 2020:
“RB, the makers of Dettol and Lysol, the global leading antibacterial and disinfectant brands, is working with relevant healthcare authorities and NGOs in China to provide essential disinfectant products and funds to combat the outbreak of Coronavirus.”
In the early stages of the outbreak, RB immediately coordinated $7.15 million worth of soap and sanitizer products to help meet the cleaning and disinfection requirements in Wuhan’s hospitals.
In response to the latest needs of the epidemic prevention, RB is now in contact with local healthcare authorities to upgrade our support. An additional RMB 20,000,000 worth of disinfectant supplies has been arranged to help to minimise the further spread of the virus. A further RMB 30 million in cash will be donated to support frontline health workers in the promoting of hand washing as an effective method to break the chain of infection.
Commenting on the outbreak, RB CEO Laxman Narasimhan said: “We immediately mobilized our experts in China and beyond as soon as the outbreak was identified. In addition to the moral responsibility we feel, we also have an important functional role to play in enhancing personal disinfection through providing enhanced access to products which can break the chain of infection. Simple steps such as frequent hand washing will aid the many efforts the Chinese government is already putting in place to protect citizens across the region.”
Sources: RB, Yahoo! Finance News and The Brussels Times