FACT CHECK: Does Every Election Year Coincide With A Disease Outbreak?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims every election year since 2004 has coincided with a disease outbreak.

“#ManufacturedCrisis” reads the caption.

Verdict: False

The image misstates the timeline for most of the listed diseases and leaves out context for the others. No evidence could be found to establish a pattern between the outbreaks and election years.

Fact Check:

Some social media users have spread a conspiracy theory on Facebook and Twitter that connects disease outbreaks to U.S. political election years. “Every election year has a disease,” reads one post. “Coincidences? NEVER.”

The post links severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to 2004, avian flu to 2008, swine flu to 2010, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) to 2012, Ebola to 2014 and 2018, Zika virus to 2016 and COVID-19 to 2020.

But the years listed for many of the outbreaks are inaccurate, and there’s no evidence of a specific link between them and U.S. election years. (RELATED: Did Trump Call The Coronavirus A ‘Hoax’ At His South Carolina Rally?)

The year linked to SARS, a disease caused by a strain of coronavirus, is 2004, when incumbent Republican President George W. Bush won reelection. However, the outbreak was first reported in February 2003, about 21 months before Election Day, and contained by July 2003, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Per the WHO, the avian flu presumably referenced in the post, H5N1, dates back to at least 1997, when the first human cases were reported in Hong Kong. North America didn’t see a case until January 2014 in Canada. Human infections of this virus are rare, but approximately 60 percent of individuals who contract it die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Swine flu (H1N1) first emerged in the U.S. in April 2009, nearly 19 months before the 2010 midterm elections, and later became a pandemic. But, according to the CDC’s timeline, virus activity levels had “declined to levels below baseline, but persisted for several more months at lower levels” by January 2010. The outbreak ended in early August 2010, according to WHO.

While MERS did first emerge in Saudi Arabia in September 2012, it wasn’t until 2014 that two cases appeared in the U.S., according to the CDC. All cases of MERS were in the Arabian Peninsula the year that President Barack Obama won reelection against then-former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

There was an Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014 but, per the CDC website, only 11 people in the U.S. were ever treated for the disease. In 2018, outbreaks were limited to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.

Zika virus has been documented in humans since 1952, according to the WHO. The post links the virus to 2016, and that more or less coincides with the most recent global outbreak, but it was first reported in the Americas in 2015.

Since being first reported in China in late 2019, the new coronavirus has spread to more than 179 countries and regions, including the U.S., where some 165,874 confirmed cases have been documented. The pandemic has become a major talking point for candidates and some states have postponed their primaries, but the notion that the virus is specifically tied to the 2020 election or a “#ManufacturedCrisis” is incorrect.

The post doesn’t list any disease outbreak for 2006, a midterm election year, seemingly contradicting its own claim that “every election year has a disease.” (RELATED: Does This Photo Show Tom Hanks Quarantined In Australia With Wilson The Volleyball?)

The Daily Caller News Foundation searched for evidence that specifically links the disease outbreaks to U.S. elections but failed to find anything supporting the tenuous claim. Elections occur every other year in the U.S., giving any disease outbreak a 50 percent chance coinciding with one.

Without further evidence establishing a pattern between outbreaks and election years, it can be safely assumed that a disease outbreak in an election year is merely a coincidence. We rate this claim false.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected].

Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Reporter
Follow Brad on Twitter Have a fact check suggestion? Send ideas to [email protected]


FACT CHECK: Was A 'Trump Won' Billboard Placed In Times Square?
FACT CHECK: Did Bill Gates Say 3 Billion People Need To Die?
FACT CHECK: Did The CEO Of GoFundMe Say, 'I Run A Website That Hosts Popularity Contests Where If You Lose, You Die'?
FACT CHECK: Did Regis Philbin Leave $20 Million To The Trump Campaign In His Will?