“Fake news spreads faster and easier than the new corona virus, and it’s just as dangerous.” That said the head of the World Health Organization WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at the weekend at the Munich security conference.
The new corona virus
The official name of the new corona virus is SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2). This designation was approved by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses on February 11, 2020. Previously, the World Health Organization (WHO) referred to the virus as 2019-nCoV.
On the same day, the WHO announced that the disease caused by the new coronavirus was official Covid-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) means.
The new disease is similar to HIV and AIDS. There, too, the virus (HIV) has a different name than the disease (AIDS).
He is not alone in this assessment. According to scientists led by Paul Hunter from the University of East Anglia in the UK, targeted misinformation and conspiracy theories (see picture above) can exacerbate the outbreak of dangerous diseases such as the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 and even increase the risk of further spread.
Wrong information, wrong behavior
Together with his colleague Julii Brainard, he examined the effects of fake news on people’s health-related behavior in two studies. They concentrated on the flu, monkey pox and the norovirus. According to the researchers, however, the findings can be transferred to dealing with the Sars-CoV-2 outbreak.
Specifically, the studies showed that incorrect information – no matter what type – leads to more misconduct in epidemics and thus accelerate their spread.
Examples of risky practices include not washing your hands, sharing food with the sick, not disinfecting potentially contaminated surfaces, and failing to isolate yourself, the researchers said.
Vaccine opponents are a bad example
“Fake news is produced regardless of accuracy and is often based on conspiracy theories,” says Hunter. He is concerned about how many people attach to the baseless information: almost 40 percent of the British public believed at least one conspiracy theory. In the United States and other countries, there are even more.
What this can lead to can be clearly seen from the example of the measles vaccine opponent: “We have already seen how the rise of the anti-Vax movement has led to an increase in measles cases all over the world.”
Preventing fake news means saving lives
It is scary that “people tend to give bad advice on social media rather than good tips from trusted sources such as the National Health Service, Public Health England or the WHO,” Hunter added. He recommends preventing false information and harmful advice from being disseminated on social media: “It can save lives!”
The WHO boss also advocates correct information. In Munich, he said: “We are not only fighting an epidemic, but also an infodemic.”