Mumbai: Fake message on WhatsApp warns about advance stage of virus affecting young population

Fake information and WhatsApp forwards continues to add to the coronavirus myths and misinformation even as the state government and civic authorities scramble to control the panic and the knee jerk reaction among citizens. A recent message in circulation has raised panic amongst housing societies across the city, claiming that a higher stage of coronavirus has hit the city.

While the message has appealed to the citizens across Mumbai to take the COVID-19 safety protocol seriously and avoid going to public places. It has created panic stating that the new strain of the deadly virus -calling it a ‘higher stage of coronavirus’ that cannot be detected is infecting more and more children and people below the age group of 30. The message warns parents to not send their kids to play outside.

Claiming to have been sent by an unknown Area Locality Management (ALM), the message informs that the ALM has received a message from BMC's health department about the new strain. However, BMC officials have denied sending any such information to ALMs or housing societies. "I am not aware of any such message. We will look into this," said Iqbal Singh Chahal, BMC commissioner.

BMC Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani said, "This message looks fake, it is not issued by us. While we have been appealing to the citizens to take precautionary measures and follow the safety protocols strictly and there is a rapid surge in the number of cases, this message has not been issued by us."

While the BMC has denied issuing such a message on new strains infecting people below the age of 30, doctors and medical experts have said that young crowd and office goers are getting more prone to the virus.

Dr Rahul Pandit, a member of the state COVID-19 task force said there are no such particular age groups in which the virus is spreading. So it won’t be right to say only citizens below 30 years of age are the super spreaders or getting more infected. “The virus has spread in all the age groups. Moreover, office goers are more prone to get infected and can spread it to others due to which they have to adhere to COVID-19 protocols strictly,” he said.

Senior health officials said a large number of children and youth have been infected after coming into contact with infected family members and friends. “As per an initial finding, children and young adults mainly get infected due to ignorance about the contagious nature of the disease and through unintentional contact with infected family members,” he said.

Dr Vikrant Shah, the infectious diseases expert, said it is likely that the number of cases from this age group is high because it is members of this group that are stepping out to run errands. Since social distancing norms are not followed, they are the worst hit. “This is not surprising. There is a higher risk of young people getting infected also because many young people have hypertension, diabetes and other comorbidities, putting them at higher risk of complications,” he said.

Dr Lancelot Pinto, consultant pulmonologist, PD Hinduja Hospital & MRC, said the proportion of those infected will be skewed towards the more productive, younger population, as these are the ones likely to be engaged in buying groceries, moving outside the house for essential commodities, be migrants, or engaged in essential services. “If the mortality in this group were high, that would be a cause for serious concern. The number of cases being high seemed intuitively expected,” he said.

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