TikTok sparks misinformation, fears about 'mysterious virus' spread

Multiple videos have been circulating on TikTok with individuals claiming to be sick with a 'mysterious virus' after testing negative for three of the most prevalent viruses currently in circulation across the U.S.: COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus.

Some of the videos have gleaned millions of views and detail symptoms like a lingering cough, severe sore throat, nausea, and excessive mucus.

"The symptoms that are being described are pretty consistent with, you know, a lot of viruses that are not 'mystery viruses,' that are things that are out there circulating all year. The common cold being one of them," Marcus Plescia, MD, the chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told The Hill in a Feb. 28 report.

While there is not a 'mysterious virus' actually circulating, the TikTok videos continue to garner views and questions about social media's role in managing health misinformation. 

"Social media failed to tackle repeated waves of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's had a lasting effect in creating distrust of real medical experts…," Callum Hood, head of research at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, told The Hill.

Anyone concerned about seemingly mysterious symptoms should contact their healthcare provider, clinicians recommended.


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