SARS-CoV-2, a novel coronavirus first detected in China in January, is emerging as a significant threat, with just under 128,000 confirmed cases and nearly 5,000 deaths reported worldwide as of March 12. While the disease caused by the virus (COVID-19) continues to spread, public health suffers from yet another serious problem: politicized spin and a general lack of good information available online—particularly on social media. According to a March 8 report from the New York Times, there has been a surge of virus misinformation in recent weeks:
As the coronavirus has spread across the world, so too has misinformation about it, despite an aggressive effort by social media companies to prevent its dissemination. Facebook, Google and Twitter said they were removing misinformation about the coronavirus as fast as they could find it, and were working with the World Health Organization and other government organizations to ensure that people got accurate information.
But a search by The New York Times found dozens of videos, photographs and written posts on each of the social media platforms that appeared to have slipped through the cracks. The posts were not limited to English. Many were originally in languages ranging from Hindi and Urdu to Hebrew and Farsi, reflecting the trajectory of the virus as it has traveled around the world.
On this episode of Talking Biotech, geneticist Kevin Folta sits down with Dr. Chubby Emu, a physician and science communicator who joined YouTube in 2015 to broaden the public’s understanding of important medical topics; much of his recent work has focused on the coronavirus outbreak. Folta and Emu dig a layer deeper into the disease, examining its physical manifestations, how it spreads and the existing anti-viral drugs that could treat COVID-19.
Chubby Emu is a clinical adjunct professor at the University of Illinois and popular YouTube content creator. Follow him on Twitter @chubbyemu
The Talking Biotech podcast, produced by Kevin Folta, is available for listening or subscription: