TikTok’s users are complaining about a ‘mystery virus’ spreading: Here’s what it really is


The various social media videos are mostly of users sharing what they’ve experienced, and asking others if they’ve had the same symptoms and what it might be. — AP

Is there a mystery virus making the rounds?

Young people are insisting it isn’t Covid-19, RSV or the flu because test results are negative, but on social media platforms such as TikTok, users are complaining about common symptoms like nausea, excess mucus and feeling faint.

It became such a trending topic that users began posting online about their experiences, and users on TikTok have described other symptoms such as tiredness, loss of sense of smell, having a fever, and difficulty breathing, which sometimes lasted for weeks.

So could there be something else that’s spreading? Is it a new illness people are catching?

The buzz has gotten so noisy that now public health experts are weighing in and believe these symptoms are most likely a sign of a post-pandemic condition, namely anxiety about getting sick.

“The symptoms that are being described are pretty consistent with, you know, a lot of viruses that are not ‘mystery viruses,’ that are things that are out there circulating all year. The common cold being one of them,” Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said to The Hill.

The various social media videos are mostly of users sharing what they’ve experienced, and asking others if they’ve had the same symptoms and what it might be.

One user said, “I was sick a few weeks ago for about two weeks. The first four days were absolutely terrible. I tested for Covid, I tested for both a and b flu, I tested for strep, and was negative for everything twice.”

“I had a fever, pretty much for four straight days, I was super congested, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell. Everything you would think of whenever you have Covid or the flu. I was also really dizzy and lightheaded a lot.”

Public Health officials told The Hill there are currently no indications of a new, unknown virus spreading throughout the nation.

Experts believe that staying home during lockdowns made our immune systems weaker and that we’ve also become more worried about getting sick.

“There’s a collective amnesia of what life was like five years ago... RSV is getting a higher profile and higher billing in conversation because there is a vaccine for it. And we don’t have a vaccine for the common cold yet. And again, it’s almost 200 different viruses,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said to the Mirror.

Benjamin noted that we’re also exposed to what’s going on with others way more than before due to social media platforms such as TikTok.

“This generation tends to tell you everything that’s going on in their lives on social media. In my view, they’re sharing way too much, but that’s them,” he said to The Hill. “They like to hypothesise about what’s going on. And to some degree, it is self-generating both hysteria and false information. Because, you know, you’re now hearing about things from four or five different people - many of whom you don’t know.”

Coming off the heels of Covid, experts have spotted a connection between concerns online about viruses and what we experienced through the pandemic.

“Social media failed to tackle repeated waves of health misinformation during the Covid pandemic, and it’s had a lasting effect in creating distrust of real medical experts while breeding a new generation of online quacks,” Callum Hood, head of research at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said in a statement to both outlets.

“In this environment, new health hoaxes can spread quickly and are not being tackled by social media platforms. Platforms need to step up and tackle harmful health misinformation instead of profiting from it,” Hood said. – pennlive.com/Tribune News Service

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