A hoax known as “SQUAIDS,” which is short for squirrels with AIDS, has riled the community of Lacey Township in Ocean County, New Jersey.
Town officials were forced to respond to the matter after a recent online article from the so-called Lacey Reporter said a doctor and the local health department gave concern over SQUAIDS, which also appear in Forked River.
Leslie Terjesen with the Ocean County Health Department said that it’s not real.
“We are now in full damage control after we received several calls with people worried about their kids and the possible implications,” Leslie Terjesen with the Ocean County Health Department said in a statement. “The article does talk about the potential risks to humans and pets. Everyone, please know this was a total fabrication; there is no such thing as SQUAIDS.”
Lacey Township Mayor Gary Quinn was also forced to respond.
“Neither the Ocean County Health Department nor the Lacey Township contacted any media regarding this issue. In addition, it was quoted that this information was received from the Director of Infectious Disease at Communion Medical Center, which does not exist,” said Daniel Regenye, OCHD Public Health Coordinator, according to the mayor’s website.
Quinn stated that “people read these reports, or maybe just scan them, and it causes unnecessary panic.”
Lacey Reporter editor Charlie Johnson on Facebook wrote that the article was published after the paper’s website was hacked.
“The article about ‘squaids’ was not posted by the Lacey Reporter, an enterprising reader exploited our anonymous tip form in order to gain access to our site’s posting and social media profiles,” he wrote.
He added: “This report is not our official word and we are conducting a full security audit and hiring an investigator. Again, we affirm that we are a legitimate news site, and that a rogue individual accessed the back end of our site in order to spread untrue and unfounded rumors. We are working to fix parts of the site still broken. We apologize for the confusion the article caused, and our readers deserved better.”
About.com writer David Emery notes that “SQUAIDS” is likely “one of those obscure in-jokes that can circulate for years in little-known nooks and crannies of the Internet without ever rising to public consciousness.”