søndag 9. februar 2020

Misinformation on the coronavirus might be the most contagious thing about it

When reports of a new coronavirus emerged last month, I speculated with fellow epidemiologists about what the media might end up naming the infection. None of us would have guessed that within a week or so a theory would be circulating that coronavirus was a new kind of “snake flu”– mostly because it’s unlikely the virus originated in snakes, and it’s not flu.

So where did the snakes come from? The culprit was a widely shared scientific paper, which speculated that the new virus had genetic characteristics and implicated snakes as the source. Leading geneticists were quick to point out that the results weren’t convincing, and that bats were still the likely suspects. However, that didn’t stop snake flu from going viral. Other misinformation about coronavirus has rippled across the internet in recent weeks. From claims the virus is part-HIV to conspiracy theories about bioweapons and reports suggesting the virus was linked to people eating bat soup, stories sparking fear seem to have overtaken the outbreak in real life. Is misinformation really more contagious than the virus itself?