Two cases of a flesh-eating illness on the province of Pangasinan in the Philippines that was predicted by an Indian prophet is not real.
Department of Health Undersecretary Ted Herbosa said the whole thing is a “hoax.”
“According to DOH Region I director, one is a leprosy with drug reaction, and the other is psoriasis,” he told Rappler.
ABS-CBN, in a broadcast on Monday, reported there were two patients with skin conditions that medical officials couldn’t identify. Leprosy, skin allergy, lupus, and psoriasis were all theories, and a patient had worms coming out of her wounds.
The term “#prayforPangasinan” trended on Twitter and the story then took a life of its own on social media. People started spreading rumors that it was part of a “prophecy” linked to India.
Many were retweeting text about an Indian “prophet” who visited the Philippines a year ago. Prophet Sadhu Sundar Selvaraja of Jesus Ministries and follower Vincent Selvakumar said that the country would be hit by floods, disease, and winds.
“Pangasinan in the north will be affected with a terrible disease and when the disease comes, when it affects them, it will touch the skin, the flesh, and the bones. It will affect them,” Sadhu said at the time.
Many thought the skin disease on ABS-CBN was linked to what Sundar said, as many viewed Typhoon Yolanda, which hammered the country in November, as part of the prophecy.
But Health Secretary Enrique Ona said in a statement that it’s not true.
“There is no reported case of ‘flesh-eating’ skin disease in the country yet. Absolutely no reason for the public to panic,” he said.
“There are a lot of diseases that may manifest through changes in the skin. It is good to consult our doctors or go to the nearest barangay health unit when we need medical advice and treatment. Let us avail of the free healthcare service in our health facilities,” reported the Inquirer.
ABS-CBN also later published a report saying that the skin problems in the Monday report were identified. It was just leprosy and psoriasis, the report said.
They are nothing to worry about because both cases are not contagious, the DOH said.
But after the report was aired, many people criticized ABS for misleading people and not identifying the diseases sooner.