News about the new and deadly virus that appeared in Wuhan, China in December of 2019 is everywhere. The virus is now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the disease it causes is called COVID-19.
Where should you turn for the latest information on a rapidly changing situation? It’s hard to beat the convenience of the internet, and we know there’s a lot of useful and reliable information online. But there’s also a lot of misinformation. The trick is to figure out which is which.
Why you need to know about this new virus
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.
Reliable online sources on the new coronavirus and COVID-19
While no one source of information is perfect, some are undeniably better than others! It’s best to look for sites that:
- rely on experts who use well-accepted scientific analyses and publish their results in reputable medical journals
- have a mission to inform and protect the public, such as the CDC and the WHO, which recently added a myth busters page to its information on the virus
- are not promoting or selling a product related to the information provided.
Other good online sources of information on the virus include:
- Medline Plus, from the US National Library of Medicine
- the UK’s National Health Service
- the US Food and Drug Administration
- major news outlets with deep expertise in health reporting, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Boston Globe’s STAT News.
While gathering information online may be your easiest initial option, isolate yourself and contact your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. (If you don’t have a doctor, call the nearest clinic for advice.) If necessary, a doctor may recommend that you see a specialist at an academic medical center (such as a hospital affiliated with a major medical school) who is likely to have the most recent information about a previously unknown infectious illness like this one.
The bottom line
When considering a new infectious disease about which so much is still unknown, it’s important to seek out reliable information and act on it. Be skeptical of implausible conspiracy theories or claims of “fake news” that dismiss recommendations from public health officials. Addressing the concerns surrounding the new coronavirus requires accessible, reliable, and frequently updated information; the best we can do is to look to the experts whose mission it is to protect public health.
For more information about the new coronavirus and COVID-19, please see Harvard Health Publishing’s Coronavirus Resource Center.
Everyone, please stay safe. God Bless!