Fact Check

Did a Coronavirus Bulletin Warn Against Unprotected Sex with Farm Animals?

You can take the virus out of the farm, but you can't ...

Published Jan 29, 2020

 (World Health Organization)
Image Via World Health Organization
A coronavirus-related health advisory graphic issued by the World Health Organization warned against unprotected sex with farm animals.

In January 2020, as a newly discovered flu virus known as the Wuhan coronavirus began sickening people across China and then spreading outside that country, health officials around the world began issuing advisories offering basic steps people could take to help reduce the risks of coronavirus infection.

Many of the suggested protective steps were common sense health approaches best followed at all times, such as washing your hands with soap and water, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, avoiding close contact with persons exhibiting symptoms, and cooking animal-based food products thoroughly. One tip offered in a purported coronavirus advisory put together by the World Health Organization (WHO) raised some eyebrows, however:

Although avoiding "unprotected sex with live wild or farm animals" is generally good practice, many viewers were left wondering ... exactly whom was this advice was intended for? What general audience or population is typically engaging in such activity?

In fact, although this coronavirus-related graphic was indeed issued by the WHO, the text of the last item (circled in red) has been digitally altered. The original WHO advisory, and others like it, more generally cautioned against unprotected contact (of any type) with live wild or farm animals:


Fish, Tom.   "Coronavirus: WHO Warn Deadly Disease ‘Expected to Spread Through China and Abroad.’"     Express.   21 January 2020.

World Health Organization.   "Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) advice for the public."     Accessed 29 January 2020.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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