West Nile virus discovered in New Orleans_lowres


I’m all for playing by the stupid criminals playbook, and I do enjoy a good joke.

But not if it means spreading bad information on public health, as the Harahan Police Department did recently when it warned that the Zika virus, which can cause serious birth defects, had been found locally in methamphetamine.

The Facebook post, which urged residents to bring any drugs they have to the local police department for testing, was just a stunt, department officials said. It’s a tried and true method used in jurisdictions to raise awareness, they argued. Rafael Goyeneche, president of the watchdog Metropolitan Crime Commission, noted that similar posts have long been used to lure naive lawbreakers into presenting themselves to police.

“If somebody is gullible enough to believe that ... I don’t see anything sinister with it,” he said.

I don’t know about that. Nobody had taken the cops up on the testing offer as of Sunday, but the post had been viewed over 300,000 times. That’s how rumors start and rapidly travel.

For the record, it’s not possible for Zika, which is spread by mosquitos, to contaminate meth. And having an official source such as a police department say otherwise actually does sound kind of sinister to me, even if that’s not the intent.

Besides, can we agree that some things are just never funny?

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.