Tomato virus is more dangerous than coronavirus, if consumed it can even endanger human life on earth, claimed a program on TV9 Bharatvarsh aired in India. The report stated that the tomato virus also known as tiranga virus is killing tomatoes and this was a new version of coronavirus which was mixed in vegetables.
Video of the report of TV9 Bharatvarsh says, "There is a claim about new virus which is all set to spread." The anchor says in the report that if consumed by people this can prove to be dangerous than coronavirus. Another screenshot of the report in Hindi translated as, "Has there been an entry of a virus that is dangerous that coronavirus?"
However, on May 15, TV9 Bharatvarsh claimed that their report is being misinterpreted. They refuted the claim that their report spoke about coronavirus. The reporter stated that they only spoke about the tomato virus or red virus/Tiranga virus and had not connected it to coronavirus.
Reporter Denied Speaking About Coronavirus
"Plant viruses do not infect humans. The receptors that the virus needs for entry into human cells is very different from plant viruses. Animal viruses, yes, but not plant viruses. There is absolutely no reason to fear." Even if consumed it is not going to infect humans, he added.
The report made a claim that tomato changes in shape and then turns black from inside because of the infection. The news was aired on May 13 on TV9 Bharatvarsh and has made people go panic. Numerous people were seen sharing the information on social media including Twitter, questioning if this news was true.
Some people even shared their fears on social media. "The world is yet to find a cure for the dangerous coronavirus, a new and more dangerous virus has come to "steal people's lives" and can be found in people's kitchens, in tomatoes," said a Twitter user. "I was about to eat tomato chutney! They I saw this news that Tiranga virus is spreading from tomatoes," said another user. Another Twitter user even said that tomato production might have to stop for a year.
FACT: Absolutely no need to fear, say virologists
Already facing the brunt of economic crisis due to coronavirus lockdown, farmers have been badly affected by this false claim that has made people hesitant to buy tomatoes. Farmers who grew tomatoes are in despair.
"I deplore rumour mongers spreading canards that tomato virus affects humans. As a student of plant pathology I clarify that not just tomato but no plant viruses ever affect humans at all. I demand action against culprits as it will affect the farmers very badly," said Mahesh Zagade on Twitter.
Speaking to The Quint, virologist Dr Jacob T John confirmed that plant viruses do not infect humans. Humans can be infected by animal viruses but not plant viruses because the receptors for both are completely different. He also said that there is absolutely no reason to fear.
Considering the loss to farmers and panic among people, farm activist Manish Jadhav of Mahagaon tehsil has lodged a complaint in this regarding the cops and requested them to register an FIR against those spreading the rumors. He also demanded clarification in this regard from the agriculture minister.
Is Tomato Virus Real?
Tomato virus, also known as the red virus or Tiranga virus, is an unidentified disease that makes tomatoes ripen early. Tomatoes infected by this cannot be revived by spraying fungicides making them not fit for sale. However, the report from the agriculture department also draws no connection of the disease to human beings.