A viral theory online claims an episode of the hit-TV show The Simpsons, aired in 1993, predicted the global coronavirus outbreak.
The posts, featuring four images from the show have been shared over 18,000 times on Facebook and over 5,000 times on Twitter as of March 13, 2020.
Although a majority of social media users who shared this theory did so in good humour; a minority have implied that the apparent prediction is further evidence of a media-led conspiracy.
Episode co-writer Bill Oakley called the perversion of the classic episode titled 'Marge in Chains' as "terrible" and "gross".
The 24th episode of the fourth season showed an exhausted Marge Simpson getting arrested for accidentally shoplifting while she is getting supplies for her sick family, who all have the "Osaka Flu".
The episode opens in Japan, where an ill factory worker coughs into boxes, which are then used to ship a popular juicer everyone in Springfield orders.
Six to eight weeks later, the residents fall ill.
Episode co-writer Bill Oakley told The Hollywood Reporter that he has not thought about the previously innocuous episode for years, not until he began to see memes online with "Osaka Flu" replaced with "Coronavirus".
Internet trolls have also used the episode for racist propaganda in response to the outbreak.
"I don't like it being used for nefarious purposes," Oakley told of the episode, which he wrote with Josh Weinstein.
"The idea that anyone misappropriates it to make coronavirus seem like an Asian plot is terrible. In terms of trying to place blame on Asia — I think that is gross.
"It was meant to be absurd that someone could cough into a box and the virus would survive for six to eight weeks in the box. It is cartoonish," he added.
"We intentionally made it cartoonish because we wanted it to be silly and not scary, and not carry any of these bad associations along with it, which is why the virus itself was acting like a cartoon character and behaving in extremely unrealistic ways." (At one point, one cloud of the virus waits at a red light when another cloud goes down the street with a green light.)
The Simpsons gets too much credit for predicting the future, Oakley said, even when it is funny — like Disney buying 20th Century Fox and smartwatches — but especially when the so-called claim is used for harmful purposes.
"There are very few cases where The Simpsons predicted something."
"It's mainly just coincidence because the episodes are so old that history repeats itself.
"Most of these episodes are based on things that happened in the '60s, '70s or '80s that we knew about."
The Simpsons is currently in its 31st season.