With cases of the Coronavirus sweeping the globe, media attention has become more pronounced as the disease spreads. Is the information the media spreading accurate or causing too much unnecessary mass panic?

With cases of coronavirus sweeping the globe, the media attention has become more pronounced as the disease spreads. Is the information spread by the media accurate or causing too much unnecessary mass panic?

COVID-19 (better known as coronavirus) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans and originated in Wuhan, China. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) “coronaviruses are a large family of illnesses ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV)”. This virus has spread globally with hundreds of thousands of cases reported across China, Japan and spreading to northern Italy. WHO has declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30. January 2020, and was declared a pandemic 11th March 2020

Symptoms often take anywhere from two to 10 days to present after contracting the virus but can take up to 24. This is a big issue globally, especially because people travel and are more connected than ever, the virus has spread at such a rapid pace. WHO confirms over 100 000 recorded cases as of 7th March. According to the WHO, “In a daily COVID-19 press briefing the WHO Director-General said that more than 20 vaccines are in development globally, and several therapeutics are in clinical trials”. With the nonstop media attention on this epidemic, the feeling of panic is constantly on the rise.

The role of the media

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While concerns from the general public about the spread of this disease is warranted, much of the media projects more fear than necessary. This often happens without spreading information from proper world health organisations and governments that would stop the spread of the virus and provide proper travel information to minimise cases. 

Unnecessary panic across the world about coronavirus can largely be attributed to the media’s attention to the virus as well as the spreading of misinformation. While here in the UK the NHS has raised the risk from low to moderate with confirmed cases rising, there are simple precautions you can take to protect yourself and those around you from the virus. From what we know now, people who are young and perfectly healthy have a relatively low risk of catching the disease. Medical experts have also stated that there is no abnormal risk for pregnant women or children if they catch coronavirus

Media outlets oftentimes tend to make the issue ‘larger than life’ in order to get more readers with attention-grabbing headlines to stories people often won’t read fully. This can be detrimental in a global situation where having medically accurate information can save your life. Ensuring that the information you get about coronavirus updates are from the NHS, WHO or CDC and is the most up to date is one of them. Also, don’t forget the oldest trick in the book: Wash your hands!

Caroline Kelly
MSc Energy, Envrionemtnal Technology and Economics