Philimon Paluku, a health promoter with the Swiss NGO Medair demonstrates to traditional healers how to use protective gloves when they examine patients, as part of an Ebola prevention campaign that has been set up by the Swiss NGO Medair, in Mbau, near Beni in North Kivu province, in Congo Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. The deadly Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo marked six months on Friday. (Kate Holt/Medair via AP)

The 2019 novel coronavirus not more deadly than Ebola or HIV

AAP FactCheck February 11, 2020

The Statement

A Facebook post claims the current 2019 novel coronavirus is more deadly than HIV or Ebola but the statistics for these diseases say otherwise.

The post from February 1, 2020 by an Australian user reflects the current uncertainty. The post features a photo of people lying down in a pedestrian area near shops, implying they are dead, and carries the comment, “Corona virus is the most deadly diseases (sic) in history then Ebola Hiv, if you think it’s only China that’s effected (sic) will (sic) think again soon we all gone (sic) be wiped out by it if we ain’t careful…..pray for fam friend (sic) to be protected from this harmful diseases (sic)”.

The post has been viewed more than 17,000 times and generated more than 90 shares.

A Facebook post from February 1, 2020
 A Facebook post claims the current 2019 novel coronavirus is more deadly than HIV or Ebola. 

The Analysis

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. It is a new strain in the coronavirus family – a group of viruses which also the SARS and MERS respiratory infections. Coronaviruses can be transmitted between animals and humans.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) coronavirus update on February 5, 2020, there have been 24,554 confirmed cases globally and 492 deaths (491 in China and one outside of China).

The Ebola virus, transmitted from wild animals to people, was first discovered in 1976 with the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa, the largest and most complex, according to WHO.

An Ebola prevention campaign in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
The 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the largest and most complex, according to WHO. 

The US government agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), put the global Ebola death toll for 2014-2016 outbreak at 11,325.

Fatalities for The Democratic Republic of the Congo, where an outbreak declared in August, 2018 has become the second largest Ebola outbreak on record, also outstrips the death toll for 2019 novel coronavirus. There have been 2,246 deaths in the DRC as of February 2, 2020, according to WHO figures citing the African nation’s health ministry as its source.

For HIV/AIDS, the WHO reports there have been 32 million people die since the beginning of the epidemic. The US government website,, lists 1981 as the year the first cases were reported.

The European Centre for Disease Control says that the 2019 coronavirus is as transmissible as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which caused 8,000 cases in the 2002-03 outbreak, but that “preliminary findings indicate that it is less fatal”.

Regarding the post’s photo, AAP FactCheck conducted a reverse image search and found it was taken for the news agency Reuters in March 2014. The picture shows people taking part in an art project in Frankfurt, Germany in remembrance of victims of a World War II Nazi concentration camp. Reuters’ image description provides further details: “People lay down in a pedestrian zone as part of an art project in remembrance of the 528 victims of the Katzbach Nazi concentration camp, in Frankfurt, March 24, 2014. The inmates of the Katzbach concentration camp, a part of the former Adler industrial factory, were forced into a death march to the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Dachau on March 24, 1945. Some 528 victims of Katzbach are buried at Frankfurt’s central cemetery”.

The Verdict

Based on the evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. The post’s claim that coronavirus is the most deadly disease in history is not correct. Global fatalities for HIV and Ebola are far higher, figures from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.

False – The primary claims of the content are factually inaccurate.

* AAP FactCheck is accredited by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network, which promotes best practice through a stringent and transparent Code of Principles.

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