Acting on the wrong information can kill. In the first 3 months of 2020, nearly 6 000 people around the globe were hospitalized because of coronavirus misinformation, recent research suggests. During this period, researchers say at least 800 people may have died due to misinformation related to COVID-19*.
At its extreme, death can be the tragic outcome of what the World Health Organization has termed the infodemic, an overabundance of information — some accurate, some not — that spreads alongside a disease outbreak. False information runs the gamut, from discrediting the threat of COVID-19 to conspiracy theories that vaccines could alter human DNA.
Though they aren’t new, in our digital age infodemics spread like wildfire. They create a breeding ground for uncertainty. Uncertainty in turn fuels skepticism and distrust, which is the perfect environment for fear, anxiety, finger-pointing, stigma, violent aggression and dismissal of proven public health measures — which can lead to loss of life.
To try to control the COVID-19 infodemic, WHO has teamed up with the United Kingdom Government to create and distribute content to combat the spread of misinformation through a series of communication campaigns. This was one of several initiatives to combat misinformation taken by WHO on its own and with partners since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak…Readmore