‘New Killer Insect’ Hoax Goes Viral [Photos]

A warning message about a “new killer insect” that spreads a deadly skin-disfiguring virus infection through skin contact has gone viral online. But the warning, which has been circulated widely online, causing panic among susceptible social media users, is a hoax.

The hoax warning, accompanied by alarming images, the stuff of a hypochondriac’s nightmares, appears to have emerged on social media in January 2016.

It claims the emergence of a “new killer insect” that spreads a gruesomely disfiguring skin condition.

The purveyors of the online hoax display a photo of an insect, with a warning to viewers to never touch any creepy-crawly that looks remotely like the insect because touching it or attempting to kill it with bare hands infects with a deadly virus that spreads to the rest of the body in a matter of minutes!

The message is also accompanied by a skin-crawling sensation-inducing image of a human hand supposedly infected with the mysterious virus through contact with the “new insect killer.”

The dreadfully diseased-looking human hand is covered with multiple holes supposedly caused by the virus infection.

Most viewers would immediately notice the striking similarity between the disfigured palm and structures on the back of the “new killer insect” that supposedly spreads the deadly viral infection.

According to Snopes, the separate image of a supposedly virus-infected fingertip has been circulating online for quite some time. It is claimed by some online hoaxers to be the effect of excessive use of the computer keyboard. But it was created by merging a photo of a human finger with an image of the mouth of a lamprey, according to Snopes.

A sea lamprey
Mouth of a sea lamprey (Image via Drow_male/Wikimedia)

The warning says that the insect and skin-disfiguring viral disease it spreads were first sighted in far, far away tropical India.

The message concludes with a plea typical of hoaxes.

“Be kind enough to forward this information to family and friends. Do remember to educate children never to kill an insect with bare hands or to allow its secretion to touch their body. This is an SOS Alert! Please share.”

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“If you ever see this insect, please don’t try to kill it with your bare hands or touch it, this insect spreads virus to the place of bodily contact and circulates the entire human system in minutes, it was first sighted in India.”

But fortunately, these alarming claims are merely the invention of the minds of imaginative online pranksters.

The insect shown in the photo has been identified as a giant water bug, a group of insects of the family Belostomatidae and order Hemiptera.

Giant water bugs are fairly large-sized insects found mostly in North America, South American, Northern Australia and East Asia in freshwater environments.

Giant water bug
A giant water bug, the 'toe-biter' Abedus indentatus, with female-laid eggs on its back [Image via noisecollusion/Wikimedia Commons]

Shown in the image above is a male giant water bug carrying on its back eggs laid by its female partner. The female typically lays its eggs on the back or wings of the male who carries the eggs around for protection until they hatch.

And giant water bugs do not transmit any known deadly virus diseases to humans. They are also not known to be harmful to humans, although if disturbed they may nip at humans, thus the name “toe-biters.”

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Similarly, the disfigured hand in the photo does not depict the appearance of any known viral infection in humans. The YouTube video below reveals that the diseased-looking appearance of the human hand was created using a makeup artist kit.

The YouTube video also reveals that the use of images of hands and fingers with multiple holes to suggest a deadly pathological condition exploits the tendency of structures with multiple clustered holes — or irregularly pitted structures — to induce a powerful sense of skin-crawling revulsion in humans.

When shown images of irregularly pitted structures or clustered holes, many people report a feeling of disgust linked to the impression that “something might be living inside those holes.”

It appears that the feeling of revulsion at the sight of irregularly pitted structures is a response due to a biologically conditioned fear of potentially life-threatening invasive pathological states.

But while some people with a tendency to exaggerated negative reaction to such structures have identified themselves as suffering a psychological disorder termed trypohobia, the alleged condition has not been given formal recognition in scientific literature and research.

[Image via noisecollusion/Wikimedia Commons]