No, the makers of Dettol don't think it can kill the Wuhan coronavirus

Facebook users have posted images of Dettol's claims to "kill human coronavirus" (Picture: Yahoo News UK)
Facebook users have posted images of Dettol's claims to "kill human coronavirus" (Picture: Yahoo News UK)

There have been a number of unusual claims about the new strain of coronavirus that has infected thousands of people and spread to a number of countries.

But perhaps one of the most unusual surrounds a claim that a popular household surface cleaner can kill the deadly virus.

On Monday, Facebook user Andy Freeman posted a picture of the back of a bottle of Dettol, which states in the small print that it kills the “human coronavirus”. He wrote underneath: “Well, well, well. Corona Virus on a Dettol bottle! Anyone would think they were forewarned.”

The post has since been shared more than a thousand times.

While many in the comments section below were quick to point out that coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes a range of different respiratory illnesses, the post implies that the new strain was anticipated or older than reported.

Facebook responded to the post by adding a “related article” written by independent fact-checking site FullFact. It comes after the social network said it is building on existing efforts to tackle dangerous conspiracy theories, such as false suggestions that drinking bleach cures the virus.

Full Fact said the claim “doesn’t mean that Dettol spray can kill the new coronavirus identified in Wuhan”.

It said: “A photo of the back of a Dettol bottle, which mentions that it kills ‘human coronavirus’, has been shared on Facebook over a thousand times.

“The implication seems to be that the new coronavirus observed in Wuhan, China is not new, or was somehow anticipated.

“Coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes the common cold, and it is likely this the label is referring to.”

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Health experts said that the Dettol claims most likely referred to the common cold.

Dr Jonathan Stoye, a virologist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, said the common cold can come under the coronavirus category.

He told the Plymouth Herald: “It should be made clear that the Wuhan virus is only one of many types of human coronavirus – another is associated with many common colds.

"Presumably, the cold virus has been tested for sensitivity to Dettol.”

At least 213 people in China have died from the virus and there have been almost 10,000 cases there.

In the UK, two people from the same family have tested positive for coronavirus. More than 80 Britons have been flown home from China and will be placed in quarantine at a hospital facility in the Wirral for two weeks.

The new coronavirus originating from Wuhan in China was only discovered in late 2019.

A spokeswoman for British company Reckitt Benckiser, which makes Dettol, said: “RB has become aware of speculation about Dettol products and the novel 2019-nCoV coronavirus.

“As this is an emerging outbreak RB, like all manufacturers, doesn't yet have access to the new virus for testing and, as a result, are not yet in a position to confirm levels of effectiveness against the new strain.

“Our products have been tested against other coronaviruses (such as MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV) and have been found to kill those. Although 2019-nCoV is a new strain, this virus is very similar to other coronaviruses.

“We continue to work with our partners to ensure that we have the latest understanding of the virus, route of transmission and will test our product range once health authorities make the strain available.”

RB said it has donated £5.5 million in “cash and products” to help mobilise medical staff to treat those affected and provide soap and hand sanitisers to hospitals in Wuhan.