By: Steve Bond
Epidemiology is the branch of science concerned with how disease spreads and is controlled in a population. We often hear about how we can take steps to slow the spread of Covid-19 or to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic. There is also a new term we must come to understand: the infodemic or the flood of information surrounding Covid-19. There have been literally thousands of scientific studies published since the start of the pandemic. There are official communications from federal, provincial and local authorities. On top of this are news articles and opinion pieces, as well as posts from influential social media types. As our knowledge of the science surrounding the virus expands, messages can change and evolve. The flood of information is often overwhelming and hard to keep up and sometimes misleading.
So how do we wade through the information to know what is correct? First of all, assess the source. Often our source is friends and family. They read or hear something and want share. But where did they hear it? Social media accounts can be created for the purpose of spreading false info. See when the account was created. Other clues that a source may be unreliable or inaccurate include unprofessional visual design, poor spelling and grammar, or excessive use of all caps or exclamation points.
Go beyond the headlines. Headlines are generally sensationalized to capture the attention of the reader. Often the body of the article may present a more tempered and balanced account.
Identify the author. Do you trust this individual? What else have they written? Are they fair and balanced or do they have an axe to grind?
Check the date. People often share things on social media which are outdated and irrelevant. Since our knowledge is expanding, older publications may no longer have merit.
Check your facts. Websites like Snopes and Google Fact Check Tools are designed to identify and debunk myths and misinformation. They are referenced and often will review background of where the myth comes from and why it has been distributed.
Together, we can spread the truth, avoid sharing misinformation and flatten the infodemic curve. Take care of yourselves and each other.