How to avoid drowning in the sea of ​​'infomedia' surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19)

The new coronavirus now receives the name of COVID-19. The World Health Organization (WHO) intended that the new nomenclature be unmarked from any place, animal or collective, while seeking an easily pronounced term and related to the disease.

"By providing a name, we avoid using other denominations that may be inaccurate or stigmatizing," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The coronavirus outbreak coovid-19 (2019 nCoV).

The organization is fighting disinformation since this coronavirus emerged, about which some experts warn that rumors around it are spreading at a faster rate than the disease itself.

The WHO describes the overabundance of information about the coronavirus as a "infodemia". Although some of the data provided are reliable, most of them are not, and sometimes it is difficult to discern what is true and what is not.

The W.H.O. fights a different kind of pandemic. This one can infect you through your device screen. 
W.H.O. Fights a Pandemic Besides Coronavirus: an ‘Infodemic’.
W.H.O. Fights a Pandemic Besides Coronavirus: an ‘Infodemic’

⬛ Working with the big tech companies, the U.N. health agency has made strides in combating rumors and falsehoods on the internet about the new infection.

Misinformation can lead to an unnecessary situation of widespread panic. During the Ebola outbreak in 2014, rumors about the disease led many people to purchase Ebola protection kits online, consisting of NBQ suits and masks, both products that were not necessary for Avoid infection

As we have been able to verify with the coronavirus, disinformation can generate stigmatization and blame the infected and affected groups. Since the outbreak was known, citizens of Chinese origin, who have no relationship or have been exposed to the virus, claim to have suffered harassment and racist insults both in the networks and in the streets.

Similarly, misinformation can erode the will of the population to follow the health advice of the competent authorities. In the most extreme cases, people do not recognize the existence of the disease, so it is obvious to take recommended measures to avoid contagion.

In other cases, people may refuse to seek help due to fears, misunderstood ideas or a total lack of trust in the authorities. They are also likely to show apathy in the face of the amount of information they are exposed to each day.

The Internet can become an ally in the fight against infectious diseases thanks to the immediate and accessible distribution of precise information on how the disease is transmitted and how to protect both personally and the people around us.

Q: What can I do to protect myself from #coronavirus?

What can I do to protect myself from coronavirus.
What can I do to protect myself from coronavirus.

⬛ World Health Organization (WHO). Protect yourself & others from getting sick:

  1. Wash your hands
  2. after coughing or sneezing
  3. when caring for the sick
  4. before, during & after you prepare food
  5. before eating
  6. after toilet use
  7. when hands are visibly dirty
  8. after handling animals or animal waste

Protect myself from coronavirus.
Protect myself from coronavirus.

However, incorrect information quickly expands across networks. Users may find themselves inside an echo chamber in which they embrace conspiracy theories that are not plausible and, consequently, move away from those responsible for responding to the emergency.

⬛ Thus, the "infodemia" continues to spread far from the networks through mobile phones, traditional media and talks with colleagues in the moments of rest.

Previous infectious outbreaks show that authorities must respond quickly and effectively to misinformation without losing sight of the fact that not everyone will be willing to believe the official version.

Last week, rumors emerged that the coronavirus was transmitted through infectious clouds in the air that anyone could inhale. The WHO quickly cut the bulo and made clear its lack of truthfulness. This was explained by Sylvie Briand, director of Preparedness for the risks arising from global infections of WHO:

The virus is transmitted by really tiny drops, so the contact must be extremely close for the contagion to occur.

A simple intervention like this demonstrates the effectiveness of a timely response. Even so, it is possible that it does not convince everyone.

Official information must be consistent in order to avoid confusion and information overload. However, as we have seen, coordination can be very difficult.

Chinese experts have released predictions that can be labeled too optimistic, since they claim that the outbreak will have come to an end in April. For its part, WHO is much more restless and has warned that the virus poses a greater threat than terrorism. 

The inconsistency between the different messages is understandable: governments try to placate the fear of the population, while WHO seeks to prepare us for the worst.

Health authorities should reiterate as much as necessary the key messages, such as the importance of regularly washing their hands, a simple and effective measure that helps individuals feel in charge of their own protection. 

Unfortunately, something so simple can easily be forgotten in the middle of an ocean of information. the importance of regularly washing their hands, coronavirus.It is worth reminding people to wash their hands regularly. CDC / Unsplash

Often, the authorities face the challenge of competing with the popularity of sensationalist stories and conspiracy theories about how diseases arise and spread and what measures the authorities take to contain them. 

Conspiracies can be more attractive than the official version and can even help many people reinforce erroneous and problematic beliefs.

Sometimes, an immediate response is not enough to end the noise that rumors generate around the disease.

While censoring a harmful version could put limits on its dissemination, it could also gain great popularity. The concealment of negative news or an excess of tranquility for the audience can place it in a position of vulnerability and lack of preparation.

Censorship and media silence during the influenza pandemic of 1918, procedures by which figures for those affected and killed by the disease were not offered, meant that the seriousness of the pandemic was underestimated.

When the truth comes up, people lose confidence in public institutions. Outbreaks suffered in the past illustrate how building trust and legitimacy are vital for the population to understand and practice disease prevention and control measures, such as quarantine. 

⬛ The use of censorship as a fear mitigating element is always problematic.

How to avoid drowning in a sea of information.

The usefulness of the internet in controlling outbreaks of infectious diseases is beyond doubt. For example, when searching for keywords, emerging trends can be detected.

The observation of the communication in networks offers the opportunity to respond quickly to the misunderstandings, as well as to compile a list of the rumors that enjoy greater monitoring and acceptance.

The response of the health authorities to this “infodemic” should include a strategy that would allow people who disseminate or create stories that are not true to be understood in order to understand the operation of the “infodemics”.