In February 2020, the WHO reported that we’re not only fighting COVID-19, but also an infodemic. “An overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.” Information overload.
Which can (and does) cause anxiety, even if the information is true. The problem is if people get the wrong information from unreliable sources we are going to have a hard time stopping this virus. And we are in the United States.
In fact, scientists just published an article showing how the infodemic (and specifically misinformation) has impacted mortality, public health interventions, and treatment. They examined rumors, stigma and conspiracy theories circulating on social media between December-April 2020.
What did they find?
• Misinformation was present in 87 countries and 25 languages
• Of this misinformation, 89% were rumors, 8% were conspiracy theories, and 4% were stigma
• 24% of claims had to do with transmission and mortality; 21% public health interventions; 19% treatment and cure; 15% origin of the disease
• Countries with the highest rate of misinformation (in order): India; United States; China; Spain; UK
• Misinformation can have severe implications on public health if prioritized over science
• “Health agencies must track misinformation associated with COVID19 in real-time, and engage stakeholders to debunk misinformation”
Love, your local epidemiologist
Data Source: Islam et al., (2020) COVID19 related infodemic and its impact on public health: A global social media analysis. Am. J. Top. Med. Hyg.