What is social media’s solution to coronavirus prevention? First, it was garlic. In Laos, eggs are the new antidote.
In the aftermath of the discovery of a Chinese tourist infected with the coronavirus, a new wildly shared digital phenomenon has hit Lao social media. One version of the rumor has it that a baby, within moments after having been born, prophetically instructed his parents (a Luang Namtha father and Luang Prabang mother) each to eat an egg in order to protect themselves against the new Coronavirus. The boiled egg must also have been eaten on 6 February, deemed to be an auspicious day. More interestingly, the baby claims to have been sent by Heaven to warn people of impending doom (the Coronavirus).
Hundreds and thousands of people began to share the story and a significant number of people went out to buy the eggs, boil and eat them (can’t hurt, right?). Many have heeded the warning, while social media users have humorously poked fun at the outrageous trend. According to some vendors, it has caused a shortage in the market. It is too soon to tell whether egg prices have increased.
Why has this spread so profusely?
Apart from it occurring during a time when many people are genuinely trying to defend against the coronavirus in an age where misinformation spreads faster than the actual disease, there could be more cultural-specific reasons why this legendary baby’s words have been taken so seriously. In Lao folklore, two heroes are also remembered to have been born under miraculous circumstances: King Fa Ngum and Sangsinxay. And these two characters went on to perform courageous and noteworthy acts.
King Fa Ngum, known as the first King of Lanexang (the Kingdom of the Million Elephants), is credited with uniting smaller Lao princedoms into one kingdom. Certain elements surrounding his birth resemble that of many mythological figures. It is said that he was born with thirty-three teeth, which was originally deemed a bad omen that threatened the well-being of his grandfather’s kingdom. Nowadays, modern Lao consider this particular overly-full set of teeth to be a positive trait because King Fa Ngum is dearly cherished in modern Lao consciousness.
Sangsinxay, the mythical hero and protagonist of the Sinxay stories, was also born miraculously. Through divine intervention, Sangsinxay was born clutching a bow, alongside his fraternal twin brother, Sangthong, who was born in the shape of a golden snail. Sangsinxay would go on to participate in many adventures, the most dramatic of which was to defeat the fearsome demon giant, Koumphan.
Thus, it could reasonably be argued that when stories of a miracle baby speaking words of wisdom, skepticism falters and superstition has a tendency to prevail, especially when enhanced by social network algorithms.