Fact Check: Dangers of COVID-19 misinformation

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Taylor D. Slater
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Coronavirus disease 2019 is not simply a pandemic. It’s quickly become known as an “infodemic.” With the ease of posting and sharing, it’s become more difficult than ever to parse what’s real and what’s false.

Misinformation includes reports from the Federal Communications Commission of scam callers who claim to have a miracle COVID-19 cure, while the World Health Organization debunks myths that have falsely professed garlic and alcohol as cure-alls. The British Broadcasting Corporation reports a man in Phoenix, Arizona, died of ingesting fish-tank cleaning products rumored to kill the disease.

The Kaiserslautern Military Community also is not immune to fake news, rumors are spread on social media and breed a new life with every personal account that comes upon it. Additionally, there are reports of thieves impersonating doctors and requesting entry into people’s homes to “test patients,” only to rob residents of their valuables.

One source dedicated to combating the spread of medical misinformation of the disease is the 86th Medical Group. They are tackling fake DIY remedies and mitigating fear associated with false reports of the Ramstein Clinic not taking patients for routine care.

“We have had some patients comment about drinking alcohol and mixing their own cleaning products,” said Maj. Kelley Henson, 86th MDG pediatrics flight commander and COVID-19 operations lead. “Some patients have contacted us with concerns that the medical group is no longer open to see patients for issues that are not related to COVID-19. We try and reinforce to the public that while the process for scheduling an appointment and being seen may be different, we are still dedicated to meet the needs of our population here at Ramstein AB.”

With guidelines changing each day, the COVID-19 environment is rapidly shifting. There are some trustworthy sources people can tap into when information seems unfounded. The World Health Organization offers a tab on their website called “Myth Busters” which is dedicated to refuting popular COVID-19 rumors. Some of the popular debunked myths include the virus in 5G mobile networks; exposing oneself to high temperatures making one more likely to catch the virus; drinking alcohol preventing the virus and the virus being transmitted through mosquitoes. The website also lists many more examples with downloadable graphics to help spread the truth.

Another good source of information is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The CDC website has tools to check if you have COVID-19, a list of commonly-found symptoms, ways to cope and steps to take if you have it. There’s also a section debunking COVID-19 myths.

In times of crisis, personnel can also turn to leadership for guidance. Gen. Tod D. Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, offered advice on COVID-19 and misinformation during an April 16 telephone news conference.

“As military forces, we have an obligation to be truthful, timely and accurate in what we say and what we do," Wolters said. "That's exactly what we continue to do here from a U.S. perspective and certainly from a European perspective. Transparency is vital right now. Neutralizing misinformation and delivering accurate and truthful facts is paramount. Our partnership and trust with one another is steadfast."

Overall, it’s most important to speak with a medical professional about COVID-19 medical concerns.

“There is an abundance of inaccurate information being disseminated to the public,” Henson said. “Early testing helps identify those infected, track their close contacts, and control the spread of this illness by provision of guidelines for self-isolation or quarantine. The team at the COVID-19 Hotline can help to answer questions, dispel myths, and coordinate care for individuals in need.”

For any concerns about COVID-19, call the COVID-19 Hotline commercially at 06371-47-9001 or DSN 480-9001, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Patients can also call on weekends from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.