COVID-19: Misinformation and Pseudo-science

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as the greatest challenge since World War II or even the Great Depression. Government-enacted restrictions to limit spread of the virus require unprecedented adjustments in daily living and inevitably have serious economic consequences. In this scary, unpredictable environment, remaining informed seems to have become key to survival.

However, misinformation is spreading as effectively as legitimate news. Conspiracy theories suggesting the virus is a biological weapon of perceived enemy nations or population groups, supposed whistle-blowers leaking the ‘true’ and much more dire health and healthcare statistics, social media posts of an already existing but withheld vaccine and a wild array on self-diagnosis tools and home treatments bombard those in search of guidance. As a result, some feel lied to and manipulated by the authorities, and compelled to disobey the enacted restrictions.

People’s desire to remain up to date with the most current COVID-19 news has itself become a threat to controlling the pandemic. Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations (UN) warn that this ’infodemic‘ spreading harmful “medical” advice and mistrust in institutions poses an additional health risk. On 14 April 2020, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced a new UN Communications Response initiative “to flood the Internet with facts and science” to counter the flood of misinformation (https://www.un.org/en/un-coronavirus-communications-team/time-science-and-solidarity).

We all have a responsibility to support this effort to halt the spread of this inaccurate information. Coherent presentation of the facts available on the topics pertinent to us all during the current pandemic is essential. Over the coming weeks, our medical writers – experts at identifying and extracting credible, scientific information to generate succinct reports – will add to this ‘digest’ of topical information, considering risk factors, potential courses of the disease, currently applied treatments, vaccines and treatments in development and more. We hope you find it informative!

 

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