The makers of Dettol did not know about the new Wuhan coronavirus before the rest of us

30th Jan 2020

Claim

Dettol antiseptic spray says it kills human coronavirus.

Conclusion

That is correct but that doesn’t mean that Dettol spray can kill the new coronavirus identified in Wuhan. Coronavirus is a category of viruses that includes the common cold, and it is likely this the label is referring to.

Update: This article was written before recent public comments about the use of disinfectants in combatting coronavirus. While Dettol and other disinfectant products may kill the new coronavirus on surfaces, the makers of Dettol says "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)".

A photo of the back of a Dettol bottle, which mentions that it kills “human coronavirus”, has been shared on Facebook over a thousand times.

The implication seems to be that the new coronavirus observed in Wuhan, China is not new, or was somehow anticipated.

The image does seem to be a genuine label on a Dettol spray product. Several Dettol products mention that they are “proven to kill…Human Coronavirus”. However, some comments under the Facebook post note that “Salmonella” is misspelled on the label. We don’t know why that is, although the brand’s Australian website also seems to misspell it.

The key point here is that coronavirus is a broad category of viruses which includes a number of different respiratory illnesses. One is the common cold, but the category also includes SARS (the severe acute respiratory syndrome of which there were outbreaks in 2002 and 2004), and the new coronavirus identified in Wuhan.

The “human coronavirus” mentioned on the back of the Dettol bottle is almost certainly referring to the common cold.

The coronavirus identified in Wuhan is a new virus, which hadn’t been identified in humans before the first cases at the end of 2019.

Update 24 April 2020

This article was written before recent public comments about the use of disinfectants in combatting coronavirus. While Dettol and other disinfectant products may kill the new coronavirus on surfaces, the makers of Dettol says "under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)".