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The concern regarding this rapidly spreading virus is well-deserved. At this writing, statistics on infections and deaths worldwide are truly sobering.

Unfortunately, the numbers are likely to rise as efforts to quickly contain its spread have proven unsuccessful. So, it’s particularly important to get reliable information about what is happening and to find out what you can do to protect yourself.

Beware: Misinformation is rampant

Just as the number of people and countries affected by this new virus have spread, so have conspiracy theories and unfounded claims about it. Social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok, have seen a number of false and misleading posts, such as:

  • “Oregano Oil Proves Effective Against Coronavirus,” an unfounded claim
  • a hoax stating that the US government had created and patented a vaccine for coronavirus years ago, shared with nearly 5,000 Facebook users
  • a false claim that “coronavirus is a human-made virus in the laboratory”
  • sales of unproven “nonmedical immune boosters” to help people ward off 2019-nCoV
  • unfounded recommendations to prevent infection by taking vitamin C and avoiding spicy foods
  • dangerous suggestions that drinking bleach and snorting cocaine can cure coronavirus infection
  • a video with useless advice about preventing infection with the new coronavirus by modifying your diet (for example, by avoiding cold drinks, milkshakes, or ice cream). This video, which demonstrates the removal of a parasitic worm from a person’s lip, is many years old and has nothing to do with the current virus.

Facebook is trying to fact-check postings, label those that are clearly false, and reduce their ranking so they are less prominently displayed. Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok have also taken steps to limit or label misinformation. But it’s nearly impossible to catch them all, especially since some are in private social media groups and are harder to find.