FACT CHECK: Did 59 People Die After Drinking Dettol Cleaning Solution In Kenya? 

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims 59 people died in Kenya from drinking Dettol cleaning solution, which their pastor said would prevent COVID-19 infection.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence 59 Kenyans died from drinking Dettol to stave off the new coronavirus. In 2016, a South African pastor reportedly gave his congregants Dettol, but no one appears to have died in that incident.

Fact Check:

The post, which features a picture of a man pouring a red liquid into a woman’s mouth, claims, “59 people die as Pastor gives them dettol to drink in church to prevent Coronavirus in Kenya.” Dettol is a brand of antiseptic cleaning solution. (RELATED: Does This Video Show A Fight Between Kenyan and Chinese Couples In Wuhan?)

However, the Daily Caller News Foundation didn’t find any media reports about about 59 people dying in Kenya from drinking Dettol in an effort to prevent infection with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Had such an incident occurred, it would have been picked up by media outlets, yet none have reported on it, except to debunk it.

A reverse image search of the featured photo turned up matches in two South African media reports from 2016. The Daily Sun article, which puts up the headline “From Pastor Doom To Pastor Disinfectant,” reports that “Prophet Rufus Phala of AK Spiritual Christian Church made his church members drink Dettol, claiming they will be healed (sic) sickness.” The South African outlet Eyewitness News also wrote about the incident in December 2016 and used the same image as that in the Facebook post.

Dettol South Africa released a statement addressing the incident at the time, saying, “Dettol Antiseptic Liquid is not for human consumption and is for external use only, and we condemn the reported usage as inappropriate.”

The statement went on to say Dettol South Africa has “been in contact with Prophet Rufus Phala” and has “asked him to stop this practice.” Anyone who consumes Dettol should see a doctor, the company also advised in the statement. No media outlets reported that congregants died in the 2016 incident.

The claim appears to stem from a March 19 article published on the website Kenya Today. That article, titled “59 people die as Pastor gives them dettol to drink in church to prevent Coronavirus,” alleges Phala gave his congregants Dettol to prevent COVID-19 infection. But a spokesperson for the South African Police Service told AFP Fact Check that the claim was false and “denied any investigations into the deaths of 59 people linked to the consumption of Dettol,” according to the outlet.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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