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Be careful where you get your news about coronavirus
News about a deadly virus that appeared in Wuhan, China in December (now called 2019 novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV) is everywhere lately. And as the number of cases rises, its understandable if youre wondering how likely it is that you or a loved one will become ill. And quite likely, youre also wondering how to prevent this.
So, where should you turn for the latest information on a rapidly changing situation? Its hard to beat the convenience of the internet, and we know theres a lot of useful and reliable information online. But theres also a lot of misinformation. The trick is to figure out which is which.
The concern regarding this new virus is well-deserved. As of January 31, there have been
All of these numbers are likely to rise in the coming days and weeks, because each infected person could potentially spread the infection to many others. And its possible that a person can spread the infection before he or she knows theyre sick; this has not been proven for this particular virus, but if true, quickly containing its spread may be impossible. Thats why its particularly important to get reliable information about what is happening and what you can do to protect yourself.
Just as the number of people and countries affected by this new virus have spread, so have conspiracy theories and unfounded claims about it. Already social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok, have seen a number of false and misleading posts about 2019-nCoV, such as:
Facebook is trying to fact-check postings, label those that are clearly false, and reduce their ranking so they are less prominently displayed. Twitter,YouTube and TikTok have also taken steps to limit or label misinformation. But its nearly impossible to catch them all, especially since some are in private social media groups and are harder to find.
While news of a novel and deadly virus spreading across the globe may be terrifying, its important to recognize that the most threatening virus in this country right now isnt 2019-nCoV its the flu. According to the CDC, there have already been up to 26 million cases of the flu this season, leading to hundreds of thousands of hospital admissions and up to 25,000 deaths. And this flu season has not been particularly severe.
Getting a flu shot is a great first step if youre worrying about avoiding illness. Other measures to protect yourself from the flu (such as staying away from others who are sick and taking care to not infect others if youre sick) are basic strategies that can also help you avoid 2019-nCoV.
While no one source of information is perfect, some are undeniably better than others! Its best to look for sites that
Other good online sources of information on the virus include
While gathering information online may be your easiest initial option, contact your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. If necessary, your doctor may recommend that you see a specialist at an academic medical center (such as a hospital affiliated with a major medical school) who is likely to have the most recent information about a previously unknown infectious illness like this one.
The bottom line
When considering a new infectious disease about which so much is still unknown, its important to seek out reliable information and act on it. Be skeptical of implausible conspiracy theories or claims of fake news that dismiss recommendations from public health officials. Addressing the concerns surrounding 2019-nCoV requires accessible, reliable, and frequently updated information; the best we can do is to look to the experts whose mission it is to protect public health.
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