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Misinformation circulating about COVID-19 virus could harm the vulnerable

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Misinformation has been circulated among Sheboygan County residents both online and at work, grocery stores, etc. regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in an effort to downplay it. While people shouldn’t panic, brushing this off as “all hype” and no different than a cold or flu could potentially put the vulnerable at risk, and harm efforts to keep it from spreading.

Here are some of the comments being repeated, and why they are not accurate (based on my own research, but comments and corrections welcome!):

Canceling everything is just an over-reaction when 80% of the population will only have minor symptoms:

  • Those 80 % can spread it around even if they don’t get sick or have symptoms.
  • COVID-19 is a fast-spreading virus. According to experts, the reproduction rate of COVID-19 is up to twice as high as seasonal flu. Estimates are that each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to three others.
  • Extreme social distancing measures (cancellations, etc.) are not meant to scare people, but to minimize the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Sheboygan County’s population is a little over 115,000. If 20% fell seriously ill at the same time, that’s 23,000 people needing treatment.
  • Areas where there are a lot of elderly or others with chronic health conditions could see more than average falling seriously ill.
  • Due to a shortage of test kits, there’s no way to test healthy people to determine if they need to be quarantined or not. At this time, minimizing large gatherings is the most effective way to contain the spread of the virus until testing and/or treatments are available.
  • If hospitals get overwhelmed with critically ill, even those who are young and low-risk could be affected if they get into an accident or have an unrelated emergency medical issue. For example, someone experiencing a life-threatening asthma attack may need to be put on a ventilator, but there could be a shortage if they are all being used to treat Coronavirus.

Tens of thousands of people die from the flu every year, and we don’t panic and cancel everything.

  • While a lot is still unknown about COVID-19, experts are saying the flu typically kills 0.1 percent of patients, while COVID-19 has been proving deadly in around 3.5 percent of confirmed cases
  • Viruses can quickly mutate into new strains, and so little is known about COVID-19 right now.
  • We have flu vaccinations and anti-viral medications for the flu, and doctors have experience treating the flu. There is no vaccination for COVID-19 yet.

The flu vaccination doesn’t always work, so this isn’t a big deal

  • True, the flu vaccinations don’t always work, but COVID-19 isn’t replacing the flu. It could add tens of thousands of new patients ON TOP OF the current population of people getting sick from the flu and other illnesses. This country isn’t equipped to handle that many sick people at once.

This is all media hype meant to create hysteria and panic and make the president look bad.

  • The media must cite experts and report accurate statistics, regardless of the tone they choose to use in their reporting. They can’t just “make up” a crisis.
  • No media or political group in this country has the power to convince the entire world to join in on a worldwide conspiracy of this magnitude just to make a U.S. president look bad.
  • Some media and public officials downplayed the situation early on. Some of the “hype” is to counter that.

There was hysteria in the past over SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu, and others, and we didn’t all die.

  • Those viruses were successfully contained in the parts of the world they originated in before they could affect the United States on a grand scale. Or a vaccination was created.
  • “Media hype” in the United States puts pressure on source countries to deal with outbreaks instead of hiding it. In the case of SARS, the death of an American, plus Chinese whistleblowers, put enough pressure on the Chinese government to allow international officials to investigate the situation there and work to contain it before it became a global pandemic. It was a doctor in China who blew the whistle about COVID-19. (He ended up dying from it).
  • COVID-19 is a faster-spreading virus.
  • If COVID-19 ends up not living up to all the “hype,” it doesn’t mean it was exaggerated all this time. It will probably be due to the success of containment measures.

Some common questions being asked:

Why are so many people panic-buying toilet paper right now?

  • Nobody seems to know for sure. More likely, it’s due to people seeing news reports and photos of empty toilet paper shelves and figuring it must be something they need to stock up on too, so the panic-buying spreads like a meme.

What should I do if I experience symptoms?

  • Call your doctor. Do not go to ER if you are experiencing symptoms unless you feel it is a medical emergency. For example, if you are a high-risk individual (elderly, cancer, diabetes and other pre-existing conditions) and you experience high or very low body temperature, shortness of breath, confusion or feeling you might pass out, you should call 911. (If you are young and healthy, keep in mind that anxiety or panic attacks may cause the sensation of shortness of breath).

Some helpful links:

What Medications to get to prep for a Coronavirus Infection: www.healthline.com/health-news/coronavirus-med-shortage-what-to-know

Comprehensive information from the CDC: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html

Sheboygan County updates: www.sheboygancounty.com/departments/departments-f-q/health-and-human-services/public-health/communicable-disease/coronavirus-covid-19

What COVID-19 means for your 401(k): www.marketwatch.com/story/the-stock-market-trauma-what-covid-19-means-for-your-401k-2020-03-13

Beware of hackers: techcrunch.com/2020/03/12/hackers-coronavirus-malware/

11 Things You Can Do To Manage Your Coronavirus Anxiety: www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2020/03/13/covid-19-coronavirus-anxiety-deborah-sosin

 

 

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