NEW YORK (VINnews) — A new study published by the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene claims that rumors, stigma and conspiracy theories regarding coronavirus have led to the death of hundreds and to injuries and suffering of thousands of other people.
The study analyzed data in 25 different languages from 87 different countries and revealed that the “infodemic” which accompanied the coronavirus pandemic had exacerbated the suffering of people around the globe.
For example, after President Trump hinted in April that drinking bleach could help combat symptoms of COVID-19, hundreds of people ingested or inhaled bleach and other toxic products and this prompted the CDC to respond that “these practices pose a risk of severe tissue damage and corrosive injury and should be strictly avoided.”
In other countries similar desperate measures were taken on the basis of canards, rumors and fake information. The report documented these measures and revealed that roughly 800 people had died from drinking highly-concentrated alcohol in the hope of disinfecting their bodies, while 5,900 citizens were hospitalized after consuming methanol, with 60 people going blind as a result.
The researchers — from various institutions in Bangladesh, Australia, Thailand and Japan — defined a “rumor” as any unverified information that can be found to be true, fabricated, or entirely false after verification. “Stigma” related to discrimination or devaluation of a group and “conspiracy theory” was defined as beliefs about an individual or group of people working in secret to reaching malicious goals.
The study cited some examples of these denominations: “Poultry eggs are contaminated with coronavirus” and “Drinking bleach may kill the virus” were rumors; “Every disease has come from China” was stigma; and “It’s a bio-weapon funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation to further vaccine sales” was a conspiracy theory.
In India, false information on social media caused people to drink cow urine and ingest cow dung, while in Saudia Arabia some reports touted camel urine and lime as a protection against COVID-19. Other quack theories proposed eating garlic, wearing warm socks and spreading goose fat on one’s chest as a treatment for the virus. None of these theories are corroborated by modern medicine.
“We followed and examined COVID-19-related rumors, stigma, and conspiracy theories circulating online, including fact-checking websites, Facebook, Twitter, and online newspapers, and their impacts on public health,” the study said.
Stigmas have led to racial scapegoating in a number of countries, with Asian citizens and health care workers suffering a spike in physical and verbal abuse.The researchers commented that “stigmatized people are vulnerable to social avoidance or rejection, poor health-seeking behavior, and physical violence.”
As a result of their findings, the scientists urged governments and international organizations to monitor more closely the spread of so-called fake news. They called on them to “cooperate with social media companies to spread correct information.”