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Students wear masks as a precautionary measure at Matribhumi school in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on Jan. 29, 2020. (AP) Students wear masks as a precautionary measure at Matribhumi school in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on Jan. 29, 2020. (AP)

Students wear masks as a precautionary measure at Matribhumi school in Bhaktapur, Nepal, on Jan. 29, 2020. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke January 30, 2020

Clorox bottles don’t prove the coronavirus was 'developed' before the outbreak

Some social media users are publishing photos of Clorox bottles to claim that the coronavirus was created before the outbreak in China.

In a Jan. 28 Facebook post, one user published a photo of what appears to be a Clorox bottle listing the viruses the cleaning agent kills when used on surfaces. "Human Coronavirus" is circled in red. 

"So it turns out that that ‘brand new’ ‘never before seen’ ‘insanely contageous’ (sic) ‘crazy deadly’ ‘better buy your casket right now’ virus that has ‘randomly broke out’ in China... yeah turns out my Clorox bottle claimed it could kill it... before it was developed - I mean discovered," the post reads.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) It has more than 2,000 shares.

(Screenshot from Facebook)

We’ve seen plenty of hoaxes that falsely conflate the 2019 coronavirus with other strains of the illness. And this post is no different.

There are seven kinds of coronaviruses that can infect humans. They were first identified in the mid-1960s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some of the viruses are quite common.

The latest coronavirus, categorized as the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), is the strain that is spreading from Wuhan, China. More than 6,000 people have been infected worldwide, according to the World Health Organization’s Jan. 29 situation report. There is no evidence that it was "developed" prior to the outbreak.

So while some Clorox labels mention "human coronavirus," that is because it has been proven effective against past strains of coronavirus, which is to say it can be used on surfaces to stem the spread of the virus (it should never be ingested!). In a blog post published Jan. 24, Clorox said that several of its products are effective at killing coronaviruses "similar to" the 2019 strain.

"The products listed below have demonstrated effectiveness against viruses similar to 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on hard, nonporous surfaces," the post reads. "Therefore, per the EPA Emerging Pathogen Policy, these products can be used against 2019-nCoV when used as directed."

Usually, per Environmental Protection Agency regulations, companies aren’t allowed to make claims about the efficacy of disinfectants against pathogens unless regulators have reviewed them. But the coronavirus outbreak has triggered emergency guidance from the EPA.

RELATED: Fact-checking hoaxes and conspiracies about the coronavirus

That guidance sets forth two criteria. First, a manufacturer’s disinfectant must be registered with the EPA for use on "hard, porous or non-porous surfaces." Second, the disinfectant’s label must make previously approved claims about its efficacy against one of three "viral pathogen groupings." 

Clorox said three of its products meet those criteria, including disinfecting wipes, disinfecting bleach and "Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach."

In related news: Clorox shares rose several percentage points following the outbreak of the coronavirus. The company has historically performed well on the stock market during epidemics.

Our ruling

A Facebook post claims a "Clorox bottle claimed it could kill (the 2019 coronavirus)... before it was developed."

It’s true that some Clorox products have labels that claim they’re effective against human coronaviruses. But that’s because they were proven effective against past strains of coronavirus — not the one currently spreading from China. There is no evidence that the 2019 coronavirus was "developed" prior to the outbreak.

The Facebook post is inaccurate. We rate it False.

Our Sources

Bloomberg Environment, "EPA Triggers Rapid Response to Curb Spread of Coronavirus (2)," Jan. 29, 2020

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Human Coronavirus Types, accessed Jan. 30, 2020

Clorox, Disinfecting Wipes, accessed Jan. 30, 2020

Clorox, "Help Prevent the Spread of the Human Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV)," Jan. 24, 2020

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Emerging Viral Pathogen Guidance for Antimicrobial Pesticides, accessed Jan. 30, 2020

Facebook post, Jan. 28, 2020

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking hoaxes and conspiracies about the coronavirus," Jan. 24, 2020

The Street, "Clorox Cleans Up Amid Coronavirus Concern," Jan. 27, 2020

World Health Organization, Novel Coronavirus(2019-nCoV) Situation Report - 9, Jan. 29, 2020

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Clorox bottles don’t prove the coronavirus was 'developed' before the outbreak

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