The misinformation public health threat

28 October 2020
Autumn 2020

Clinical Adviser for the College Daniel Hardiman-McCartney FCOptom on the epidemic of fake news that has accompanied COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters a new phase, the misinformation about the virus remains as viral as the disease itself. 

Both the World Health Organization and NHS England have units to counter false information, and for many years vaccinations were the focus of their attention. 2020 saw COVID-19 take centre stage and misinformation required a more aggressive approach, with social media giants signed up to help prioritise trusted sources of information. From bleach to 5G, every day a new fake news epidemic spread. Coronavirus conspiracy theories and misleading treatment information circulated quickly. A review of YouTube videos about COVID-19 at the end of March found more than a quarter contained misleading information; collectively, they had over 60 million views. A study published in the journal Critical Care found that 800 people may have died in Iran alone as a result of being exposed to coronavirus misinformation (Hassanian-Moghaddam et al, 2020).

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