On World Social Media Day on June 30, the United Nations expressed its hope to reach billions of social media users with this new message — “Pause. Take care before you share” — to combat misinformation.
“We are in a moment of global reckoning, from the pandemic sweeping across the globe to worldwide protests for racial justice to the climate emergency. Misinformation hate speech and fake news is fuelling and distorting all of the challenges. It acts as a virus. It exploits our weakness. Our biases. Our prejudices. Our emotions,” the UN said on its website.
A lot of misconceptions and mistruths about the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as not as severe as dengue, tuberculosis, influenza are being spread in Cebu, said Dr. Ted Herbosa, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID) adviser, in an interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News last week.
“The effect, really, is you see the greater transmission of the virus and more people getting admitted to the hospitals… These are preventable deaths. If the transmission is controlled, we actually save a lot of lives,” he added.
“Early identification and clinical care saves lives” is one of the five priorities issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) on June 29. We must not underestimate Covid-19 just because 80 percent of cases are mild and the sufferers recover. If you or your loved one happens to fall in the 20 percent and gets hospitalized, you would realize how important prevention and early intervention are.
My thoughts and prayers go to my beloved Cebu, where my relatives and childhood friends live. What breaks my heart is that the Covid-19 fatalities in Cebu are not just numbers to me. Early intervention could have prevented their deaths. You see, misinformation could make one complacent.
Look at tuob, or the practice of steam inhalation where one covers his or her head with a sizeable piece of cloth to inhale steam from a small basin with boiled water infused with salt, ginger, eucalyptus or other herbs. I recall the tuob sessions I had as a child whenever I was sick with the common cold and steam inhalation relieved my cold symptoms. Nothing wrong with traditional or alternative medicine as a supportive measure, but one cannot say it is a cure without clinical evidence.
Maria Rosario Vergeire, Health undersecretary and spokesman, says there is no scientific evidence that tuob could kill Covid-19. In its June 25 statement, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) disputed the claim of Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia that tuob treats the viral disease. “Worse, if the person was asymptomatic and not yet tested, then the feeling of well-being from the steam inhalation may cause this person to relax or forget safeguards, such as wearing of face masks and/or face shields, social distancing, regular handwashing and meticulous hygiene,” it warned. Resorting to tuob may think it protects one from Covid-19, and this could lead to complacency.
Leaders need to take the lead in the guidelines the IATF-EID issued. Despite the task force’s order for people going out of their homes to wear a face mask or other similar protective gear, Garcia doesn’t like to wear one and tries to justify it. Her reason: inhaling the carbon dioxide by her mouth would cause “overall exhaustion, lower my immune system and affect my brain.” According to multiple fact-checkers and sources from the #CoronaVirusFacts Alliance Database, the governor’s reason is tagged as “partly false:”
“For hypercapnia and hypoxia to happen, you need an extremely high concentration of CO2 (carbon dioxide). Too much CO2 could definitely be life-threatening, but for this to happen, the mask needs to be completely glued to your skin at all times, which would definitely restrain your breathing,” Fact Check Philippines said in its Facebook page.
Protecting ourselves and others means following WHO’s advice of “physical distancing, hand hygiene, covering coughs, staying home if you feel sick, wearing masks when appropriate, and only sharing information from reliable sources.” We must discern the source of information and be mindful about the information coming from the media, government and other citizens with the goal of saving lives and countering misinformation. The fight against #COVID19 is also a fight against misinformation. Misinformation spreads like a virus, so it is best to #TakeCareBeforeYouShare.
Learn more about the UN Verified campaign to fight misinformation at http://shareverified.com/en.
First published on July 5, 2020 at the Sunday Business & IT