A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular yet completely fake stories and images of the week. None of these are legit, even though they have been widely shared on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:


Combining COVID and the flu test does not prove they are the same virus

CLAIM: A rapid home test that detects both coronavirus and influenza A and B is proof that COVID-19 and influenza are the same disease.

THE FACTS: The flu and coronavirus are distinct viruses, and the product in a photo circulating on social media tests separately for each. Cases of COVID-19 in the US have risen again along with the flu. But in recent days, some social media users have pointed to a photo of a home testing kit that can detect influenza A and B and COVID-19, wrongly suggesting it proves the coronavirus pandemic is just another seasonal flu wave. But the kit pictured tests each virus separately, and medical experts have confirmed that these are distinct viruses that are detected differently. The test instructions show that it comes with a cartridge that contains two “sample wells,” one to check for COVID-19 and the other to check for flu. Users are asked to swab their nostrils, insert the swab into a test liquid, then add drops of liquid to each well. Different lines will appear on the test strip in each well depending on what the user tests positive for. The test, sold under the name Fanttest, has been approved by the medical treatment agency for use in Australia but is not available in the U.S. Thomas Denny, a professor of medicine and chief operating officer of the Human Vaccine Institute at the Duke University said rapid antigen tests are developed using a “recombinant protein” that mimics a specific virus. Before such tests are licensed for use, they’re measured for sensitivity and specificity, Denny said. Specificity refers to ensuring that tests give positive results for a particular virus and not for samples from people who are uninfected or infected with a different virus. It’s common for antigen tests to check for several things at once, said Dr. Benjamin Neuman, chief virologist at Texas A&M’s Global Health Research Complex. The proteins typically targeted by COVID-19 and flu tests, respectively, “have nothing in common,” making a two-in-one antigen test possible. In May, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a triple test kit for COVID-19, influenza A and B, and RSV, but those results have yet to be processed in the lab. It is possible to be infected with both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time.

— Associated Press writer Graph Massara of San Francisco contributed additional articles to this report by Angelo Fichera of Philadelphia.


No, COVID-19 vaccines are not gene therapy

CLAIM: COVID-19 vaccines “are a gene therapy, NOT a vaccine.”

THE FACTS: COVID-19 vaccines don’t change a person’s genes, like gene therapy does, experts say. False claims that vaccines alter human DNA have been circulating since before their debut in late 2020. In recent days, social media posts have shared the claim that vaccines are “gene therapy” – which involves modifying of a person’s genes to treat or cure a disease. The posts point to a clip of Dr. Robert Malone — a vocal critic of COVID-19 vaccines who has done early research on mRNA technology — speaking about the shots at an event in early December. In the clip, Malone is asked if vaccines are actually a form of gene therapy. “As I’ve said many times, he came out of a gene therapy research program,” Malone replies. “These and adenoviral vectors are absolutely gene therapy technology applied for the purpose of eliciting an immune response.” A tweet sharing the clip stated, “Injections are a gene therapy, NOT a vaccine.” But Dr. Louis Picker, a professor and associate director of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health & Science University, said there are big differences between vaccines and gene therapy. “The purpose of gene therapy is to get in and change the actual coding in the DNA of a person’s cells.” Picker said gene therapy is “very different than simply injecting RNA into a vector designed to be harvested, expressed, and elicit an immune response.” Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA to instruct cells to produce a protein from the coronavirus and trigger an immune response. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses a modified adenovirus, a cold virus, to elicit an immune response But none of the vaccines can alter human DNA. Michael Barry, a Mayo Clinic researcher who studies gene therapy and vaccines, said in an email that the tools used for those vaccines have a relationship to gene therapy technology But that doesn’t mean vaccines are actually gene therapy. Specifically, the lipid nanoparticles, used to carry mRNA in vaccines, come from a tool originally developed for gene therapy, he said. The adenovirus vectors used in the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine have also previously been studied for gene therapy. looking for protein expression to repair a broken gene and its broken protein,” Barry added. “Vaccines mean a brief burst of protein expression to boost the immune system.” Malone did not return a request for comment.

– Angelo Fichera


The EU does not impose a system of “personal carbon credits”.

CLAIM: The European Union is working to create a “personal carbon credit” system in which individuals pay directly for the greenhouse gases they produce.

THE FACTS: Spokesmen for the EU’s legislative and executive offices say there has been no consideration of creating such a system. Social media users have spread false claims about new developments announced this month regarding the EU’s climate change efforts. Many users share an article from a conservative website claiming that the regional trading bloc has taken “first steps” towards imposing a “personal carbon credit system” in which every citizen will have to pay for their emissions of carbon. But European leaders have neither proposed such requirements for individual citizens nor are they considering them, according to officials and experts. “There has been no decision to set up a personal carbon credit system,” Thomas Haahr, spokesman for the European Parliament, the legislative arm of the 27-member union, wrote in an email. Ana Crespo Parrondo, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, agrees, providing a list of about seven elements the two sides have agreed on for her “Fit For 55” legislative package, which aims to help the region meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030. Among them is an agreement reached this month to overhaul regulations for the energy and industrial sectors. The deal would speed up the phasing out of free allowances under the emissions trading scheme for industries to encourage companies to aggressively reduce the pollutants they emit into the atmosphere. It would also extend the emissions scheme to the transportation and construction sectors, a move that would likely raise the price of gasoline, natural gas and other fossil fuels. In addition, the two sides have agreed to develop a tax on foreign companies seeking to import products that do not meet the region’s climate protection standards. Sanjay Patnaik, an expert on EU climate change policy at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C., said the trade bloc had focused on these kinds of industry-wide regulations, not directly imposed ones. to individuals. Michael Pahle, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, agrees, adding that the likelihood of companies passing on higher fuel costs to consumers from expected emissions regulations is not the same as implementing a personal carbon credit system.

– Associated Press writer Phil Marcelo of New York contributed to this report.


Hooters says it won’t shut down for a millennial-friendly rebrand

CLAIM: Hooters is shutting down and renaming.

THE FACTS: The posts misrepresent a 2017 article that talked about some U.S. locations that closed between 2012 and 2016, as well as the company’s changes to the menu and decor more than a decade ago. A misleading claim spread on social media Wednesday that Hooters, the restaurant famous for its scantily clad waitresses, is closing and rebranding due to changing millennial tastes. But Stephen Brown, a spokesman for Hooters, told the Associated Press that the casual restaurant chain has no plans to change its image. “There is no validity to this story,” he wrote in an email, adding, “Our concept is here to stay.” The company too he refuted the claim through one of his Twitter accounts. In a follow-up post, the Twitter account that first leaked the false claim quoted a August 2017 article from Complex, which discussed closing some locations and menu changes in previous years, but didn’t say the entire chain was shutting down or rebranding as the posts suggest. The Complex article discussed a report that there had been a 7 percent decline in Hooters locations from 2012 to 2016. It also noted that the chain updated its menus and decor in 2012 “in an effort to attract younger customers and female customers” and earlier that year had opened a new chain called Hoots, which features Hooters’ famous chicken wings without waitresses in skintight tops. The article simultaneously discussed a then-new study by Pornhub that found its millennial users were less likely to search for breast-related terms. But while the article tied the two together, the studio had nothing to do with the restaurant, nor with the changes it made before its release.

— Associated Press writer Melissa Goldin of New York contributed to this report.


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