Director of Czech-Roma NGO posts photos and video in effort to show that mandatory respirators are not "infested with parasites" as hoaxes claim
Internet users are massively sharing videos alleging that the respirators that are now mandatory in the Czech Republic, or the swabs that come with antigen tests for COVID-19, have been infested with parasites, specifically, Vlasovec mízní (Wuchereria bancrofti). Scientists at the Biology Center of the Czech Academy of Sciences have refuted the hoax, but some Romani men and women in the Czech Republic have become convinced that it is true.
Kumar Vishwanathan, director of the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) organization aiding Romani people in the Ostrava–Přívoz locality, which has become a COVID-19 hotspot, has decided to respond to the disinformation. He posted photos and a video of himself attempting to visually demonstrate that the respirators are uncontaminated to the Facebook social networking site with the following message: "Dear friends, many of you have expressed fear of impurities or even living creatures in the respirators. For that reason, we decided to test them ourselves. We are making the results available here. No impurities or strange creatures can be seen. You can be certain that it is safe to wear the respirators. Millions of people all over the world are wearing them and nobody has encountered any such problems. We in the Czech Republic have had no such experiences. Protect yourselves. Wear respirators."
Parasitologist Tomáš Scholz also says people should not panic over such allegations because in his view, it is absolutely absurd to claim that Wuchereria bancrofti would be in or on the respirators somehow. "That is absurd. Wuchereria bancrofti exists in just a few places somewhere in Africa, it usually shows up in dogs, not people," the parasitologist told news server TN.cz.
Some people, upon opening packages of respirators, which are usually white, have noticed black threads in them, but there is a very simple explanation for those discolorations - ordinary tufts of dust or various kinds of packaging waste may look like tiny threads, and some may be imagining they see miniature parasites or other unwanted intruders in them. Life Together is now providing aid to residents of Ostrava-Přívoz, where a hotspot of infection for the novel coronavirus was recorded last week.
Another local association, Jekhetane (Together), has also joined that assistance effort. The Regional Public Health Authority warned the organizations that COVID-19 was spreading among residents of that excluded locality.
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