Misperceptions about Coronavirus Prevalent in US, UK

A study conducted in late February and early March has found that many people believed that using a hand dryer or rinsing your nose with saline could help prevent coronavirus infection. The study was published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The cross-sectional online survey was conducted on an online platform known as Prolific Academic Ltd. Out of total 80,000 individuals who use the platform, the researcher selected a sample of 3,000 people who were either living in United States and United Kingdom. The sample included strata like male and females, people with different educational backgrounds and different levels of household incomes. Every race was represented in the sample.

The participants in the study correctly identified that washing hands, avoiding close contact with sick people, avoiding touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands are the correct preventive measures for coronavirus. 92% of the people in United States and 86% people from the United Kingdom correctly identified these measures.

A large number of people believed that gargling with mouthwash and antibiotics was an effective way of preventing coronavirus infection. Other untrue beliefs commonly held included that receiving a letter or a package from China poses a risk of COVID-19 infection. People believed that children were at an increased risk of death and believed that surgical masks were infective in preventing infection.

25.6% of US participants and 29.6% of UK participants believed that they should not eat in Chinese restaurants. 29.7% from US and 40.8% people from UK said that they will reject the ridesharing requests of east Asian sounding names, if they were a driver.

Significant amount of people also believed that coronavirus may be a bioweapon developed by a terrorist or government organization.

Why This Study is Relevant

It is the need of the hour. The survey such as these are important in informing public health decision makers. They help inform the policymakers with constant and up to date insights. This kind of information is critical in educating public if there is a need for widespread action, like right now the corona epidemic needs a large-scale response by public to follow some preventive actions.

Source: BBC, NHS

Discussing the results, Dr. Geldsetzer said that the results showed that people generally had a good level of knowledge of the symptoms of COVID-19 and the mode of its transmission.The study’s author, Pascal Geldsetzer, M.D., Ph.D., is an instructor of medicine at Sandford. He believes that survey such as these are effective methods of gathering information quickly and the collected insights can be used in public health information campaigns. He says, “This was a cheap and quick way of getting at least a sense of what knowledge and perceptions the public has about the coronavirus.”

The study however did have some limitations, like the sample may not have been representative of the whole US and UK population, people may have clicked most feasible answers to complete the survey for the monetary reward, and people may have looked answers online before answering.

Man Dies of Ingesting Chloroquine after Trump Touted It as a Treatment for Coronavirus

Misinformation about coronavirus is widespread and President Donald Trump has also gotten on the bandwagon. Last week, he claimed that chloroquine is an FDA approved drug for coronavirus infection, in a press conference. Though the FDA  refuted the claim and said more evidence was needed, a man in Arizona died when he took the drug in an attempt to protect himself from the virus.

The man and his wife, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, which ended in the man dying and the woman in critical care in a hospital.

Typically, the drug is used to treat malaria. Some early research did promise its use in treating COVID-19, but no drug has proven to be effective yet or approved for use in coronavirus infection or prevention.

Medical Director of Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, Dr. Daniel Brooks, says:

Given the uncertainty around COVID-19, we understand that people are trying to find new ways to prevent or treat this virus, but self-medicating is not the way to do so.

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