The coronavirus pandemic leads to the rise of the ‘infodemic’

Noor Baber, Staff Writer

   The coronavirus has affected people all across the globe, with countries imposing strict lockdown orders and millions of people being forced to quarantine at home. Today,  there are 1.3 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, and 77,212 people have lost their lives— a number higher than the American death toll during the Vietnam War.

   As the numbers continue to rise every day, people are constantly on their phones and T.V.s trying to stay updated on the latest news. The rise of social media during this pandemic has also led to another crisis: the rise of misinformation. 

   All across social media, there have been false rumors being spread about the coronavirus as well as potential cures for the illness.

   One of the first myths that spread like wildfire was that the coronavirus originated from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, the city where the first case of COVID-19 was originally reported. 

   USA Today states that the rumor was proven false by health officials; nevertheless, right-wing media channels continued to support the claim. However, as stated by The New York Times, the continued blame on China for the virus has led to more discrimination against Chinese-American families in the United States.

   Another popular rumor swarming the media presents a “potential” coronavirus test. According to CNN, the rumored “test” states that if one is able to hold their breath for ten seconds without coughing, then they do not have the coronavirus. Stanford health officials condemned the belief, calling it “dangerous.” This test is not a good indicator of COVID-19.

   Additionally, misinformation about COVID-19 has also continuously been spread by President Trump and his administration. 

   The Atlantic reports that in the beginning months of the virus, President Trump stated that the coronavirus would soon “disappear” “like a miracle.” 

   As of May 8, there have been 1.3 million coronavirus cases in the United States, and 77,212 people have died.

   President Trump has also spread several alleged cures for the coronavirus. One of these “cures” is hydroxychloroquine. Hydroxychloroquine is a common medication used to treat malaria and rheumatoid arthritis, yet President Trump began encouraging people to take the medication, calling it a “game changer.” 

   However, using this medication as a COVID-19 cure has not produced promising results, as there have been patients who suffered from cardiac problems after being treated with the medicine. 

   Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, later stated that hydroxychloroquine was only anecdotal, and there was no evidence to support the effectiveness of the medicine.

   In a later press conference, The President suggested that using ultraviolet light or injecting disinfectant could be used as treatment for coronavirus. 

   However, ultraviolet light has harmful effects on the skin. Ingesting disinfectants is extremely dangerous, as it can cause poisoning and even death. The President’s allusion caused much fury in the scientific community. Doctors and pulmonologists were quick to warn the public against taking disinfectant, calling it “irresponsible,” and “dangerous.”

   There are many lies and falsehoods circulating the media about coronavirus— the ones described above are just several examples. In these times, during which the coronavirus has upended daily life and kept everyone in their homes, we cannot succumb to the misinformation about this pandemic. It is crucial that we keep up to date with factual information, and there are several ways to do this. 

   The simplest way is to think, says the BBC. Does the information seem legitimate? If not, do some research into where the news came from. If the source can’t easily be identified, it could be fake. If you know the news isn’t true, don’t share it with others, as people might take it seriously. The next thing to do is to look over each detail, as not all of them may be true. Also, avoid any news that stirs emotion— people believe anything that makes them happy, scared, or mad. Another way to avoid misinformation is to avoid sharing something that you are biased about. Share something only when you know it’s true, and don’t share it just because you agree with it.

   Be sure not to fall into the trap of misleading information. It is necessary to stay up to date with factual, health related news, so that we can also stay healthy. Remember to take care of yourselves, and always wash your hands. Stay safe, Wildcats!