NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
2014 photo of US rescue dog misrepresented after Turkey earthquake
CLAIM: A photo shows a white-haired dog covered in dirt who helped rescue at least 10 people in Turkey after an earthquake struck the country on Monday.
THE FACTS: The image was taken in 2014 by a Reuters photographer after a deadly mudslide near Oso, Washington. Following Monday’s earthquake, old photos and videos showing a variety of tragedies — from tsunamis to building collapses — circulated widely, falsely identified as showing the aftermath in Turkey and Syria. Amid search efforts, where many countries have sent dogs and rescuers, incorrectly attributed images of dogs used in other search efforts emerged. One widely shared misrepresented image shows a dog caked in dirt as he stares directly into the camera. A person sporting a red sleeve and white glove is holding the dog’s leash. “This dog hero who worked the whole night and saved 10 lives in Turkey,” reads a caption on an Instagram post of the image. But the photo shows a rescue dog who helped after the 2014 mudslide in Oso, about 60 miles (97 kilometers) outside of Seattle, which killed 43 people. It was taken by Rick Wilking, a freelance photographer for Reuters. “Tryon the rescue dog waits to go through the decontamination area at the mudslide after searching for victims in Oso, Washington March 30, 2014,” a caption on the photograph states. The AP also published a similar image of Tryon taken by Wilking at the time. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck southeastern Turkey, as well as Syria, during the early hours Monday toppled thousands of buildings and killed more than 20,000 people, the AP reported.
— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin in New York contributed this report.
Study doesn’t prove egg yolks protect against COVID-19
CLAIM: A protein naturally found in egg yolks protects against COVID-19 in humans, which is why there is an egg shortage.
THE FACTS: The claim misrepresents a 2021 study by a group of Chinese researchers who immunized hens with part of the coronavirus spike protein in order to extract antibodies from yolks in the hens’ eggs. “PREVENT’S COVID! Do you understand why gov’ts are messing with chicken feed & destroying egg farms!” wrote one Twitter user who shared a screenshot of the study, which was archived in the National Library of Medicine. The post references other debunked claims that chicken feed is being altered to reduce egg production and that fires are being set at food plants to create shortages. While the post implies a link between the study and the current egg shortage, the two have no relationship to each other, experts say. “Eating eggs which have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 is completely useless against COVID-19,” said Peter Palese, a microbiology professor at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine who has conducted similar research. “Such antibodies taken orally are right away digested in our digestive tract.” The study — titled “Chicken Egg Yolk Antibodies (IgYs) block the binding of multiple SARS-CoV-2 spike protein variants to human ACE2” — was published in January 2021. The researchers did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The study describes how antibodies against the coronavirus spike protein were isolated from chicken egg yolks. However, this was achieved by first immunizing hens with a portion of the spike protein. The antibodies were not naturally occurring in the hens, nor would they have a profound impact on COVID-19 in humans, according to Palese. “Such antibodies are good laboratory reagents but are no good for injecting into humans,” he wrote in an email to the AP. Daria Mochly-Rosen, a professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine’s department of chemical and systems biology, confirmed that the hens first need to be immunized with a protein derived from the virus for the antibodies to be present in their egg yolks. Even then, she said, the antibodies need to be purified from the raw eggs. In a similar study published in the journal “Viruses” last year, a team of researchers “hyperimmunized” hens, then collected their eggs to obtain antibodies. Those antibodies were used in a laboratory to perform virus neutralization tests, said Dr. Rodrigo Gallardo, a professor in the school of veterinarian medicine at the University of California, Davis, who contributed to the research. The team found that the antibodies were capable of neutralizing virus action in cells in-vitro, however, Gallardo emphasized that not all eggs contain antibodies that can neutralize COVID. “Not all eggs will contain these specific IgY’s that neutralize SARS CoV-2,” Gallardo said. He confirmed that the current egg shortage was caused by an outbreak of Avian Influenza H5N1 that has led to the losses of tens of millions of poultry. The outbreak, combined with soaring feed, fuel and labor costs, has led to U.S. egg prices more than doubling over the past year.
— Associated Press writer Sophia Tulp contributed this report.
Thai official: No plans to void Pfizer COVID vaccine contract
CLAIM: Thailand is canceling its COVID-19 vaccine contract with Pfizer after its princess fell into a coma following a booster shot.
THE FACTS: There are no plans to alter Thailand’s contract with the New York-based pharmaceutical giant, an official with the country’s National Vaccine Institute said. Princess Bajrakitiyabha’s condition was attributed to an irregular heartbeat caused by a bacterial infection. As concerns about the health of the princess mount following her December collapse, social media users are falsely claiming the Southeast Asian kingdom is taking drastic measures against a suspected culprit: Pfizer, one of the primary makers of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. “Thailand princess has been in a coma for about 3 weeks after getting a booster,” wrote one Twitter user in a post that’s been liked or shared roughly 28,000 times as of Tuesday. “The Royal family has discovered Pfizer has lied & it’s looking like they will tear up their contract & demand billions back. This could be the start of Pfizer’s demise.” Many of the users link to comments recently made in an online interview by Sucharit Bhakdi, a retired microbiology professor and vocal opponent of COVID vaccines. The former professor at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, whose parents were originally from Thailand, claims in the interview that top Thai officials are considering nullifying the Pfizer contract after hearing out his concerns about the inoculations. But the Thai government has disputed this. “FAKE NEWS DO NOT SHARE!” Thailand’s Department of Disease Control wrote in Thai in a Feb. 3 Facebook post that includes a screenshot of Bhakdi’s interview. “The public is requested not to be fooled and ask for cooperation not to send, or share such information on various social media channels.” An official with Thailand’s National Vaccine Institute, which is under the Ministry of Public Health, also confirmed to the AP there are no plans to revisit the country’s contract with Pfizer. In a statement, Pfizer noted that Thailand’s disease control agency continues to recommend its vaccine “for all authorized ages and indications.” Bhakdi acknowledged that some of the claims circulating online are an “exaggeration.” But he maintains his concerns are being seriously considered. “I did speak with highest-ranking advisors to the government and Royal Family, thereby explaining why Thailand could and should annul the Pfizer purchase contract,” he wrote in an email Monday. “No more, no less. And they seemed to be convinced. Nothing has happened due to internal counter-movements. We are renewing our efforts, however, and with luck there will be things to report in about 2 weeks.” In a Jan. 7 statement, the royal palace said Bajrakitiyabha, the 44-year-old princess, who is the king’s eldest daughter and a potential heir to the throne, remained unconscious and on life support after falling into a coma while training dogs for an army exhibition. The statement attributed her collapse to an irregular heartbeat caused by a mycoplasma infection, a bacterial illness usually associated with pneumonia. Daniel Kuritzkes, a Harvard Medical School professor and chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said mycoplasma infections have so far not been found to be associated with COVID-19 vaccinations.
— Associated Press reporter Philip Marcelo in New York contributed this report with additional reporting from Kaweewit Kaewjinda in Bangkok.
LAX airport hasn’t added urinals to women’s restrooms
CLAIM: Los Angeles International Airport is adding urinals to its women’s restrooms.
THE FACTS: One men’s restroom has been temporarily converted into a women’s restroom while that section of the airport undergoes construction, a spokesperson told the AP. A misleading video taken inside a restroom at LAX has spread widely on social media in recent days. The video shows someone walking into a restroom labeled with a blue sign reading “women.” Inside, two rows of urinals can be seen, cordoned off behind white barriers and shielded from use with clear plastic covers. “Urinals in the women’s bathroom,” the person filming says. “Women, urinals. What the heck?” Social media users have falsely suggested the urinals were placed in the women’s restroom as a nod to transgender passengers or baselessly claimed their presence constituted a threat to the women inside. “Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is installing urinals in the WOMEN’S restrooms,” read the caption on one Instagram post. “So parents and ladies be alert and diligent when entering these facilities. Your safety and children’s safety has been put at risk by your government.” The restroom in the video has urinals because it is ordinarily a men’s room, said Heath Montgomery, a spokesperson for Los Angeles World Airports, the authority that runs LAX. That particular restroom had been converted to a women’s facility during construction work on the surrounding terminal. “We have dozens if not hundreds of restrooms throughout our 9 terminals and many other facilities,” he wrote in an email. “This one required a temporary conversion due to construction. It was marked appropriately and had the men’s facilities temporarily walled off.” Under California law, people within the state’s borders are entitled to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity, and single-stall restrooms must be designated as gender-neutral. LAX already has gender-neutral restrooms.
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