A letter about COVID-19 bearing the address of the Roseburg VA Healthcare System’s Brookings Clinic is making the rounds of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The trouble is, the letter’s a hoax.
The letter didn’t come from the Roseburg VA, or any other facility under the Department of Veterans Affairs. Worse, the information is misleading. If those who read it were to take it seriously, it could also be dangerous.
“This is not official Roseburg VA Health Care System, Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. We are currently looking into the origins of this document,” Roseburg VA spokesman Tim Parish said in an email.
In the meantime, the VA is urging patients to ignore the letter if they run across it on social media.
Instead, patients can seek out reliable information about COVID-19 from the VA at https://www.publichealth.va.gov/n-coronavirus/. Reliable information can also be found at the website for the Centers for Disease Control at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html.
The hoax letter begins with the all-caps headline “IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT — CORONAVIRUS” and goes on to state that “Last evening dining out with friends, one of their uncles, who’s graduated with a master’s degree and who worked at Shenzhen Hospital ...”
This supposed uncle is then credited with a list of misleading and false claims about the virus. For example it suggests without any basis in fact at all that the virus can be killed by an 80-degree temperature or by the sun. It also makes a fake claim that drinking warm water or gargling with warm saltwater is effective at preventing the virus.
Want to prevent catching or spreading the coronavirus?
Here’s the real prevention advice being issued by the VA:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if you are sick or becoming sick.
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Social distancing is also an important prevention measure.
The hoax letter circulating on social media also contains misleading claims about the symptoms of coronavirus.
Here’s the accurate list of the most common symptoms, according to the CDC: fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Veterans who have these symptoms or have been exposed to someone with these symptoms, are being asked to call before going to the VA. The number to call is 541-440-1000.
Roseburg VA is offering COVID-19 screening and treatment. Samples are taken on-site and will be processed by the North Carolina-based company LabCorp, which has a network of labs across the country.
Everyone entering the main VA campus in Roseburg or affiliated clinic campuses is now being screened before being allowed on-site.
Patients known to be at risk will be isolated to prevent spreading the illness to other patients.