Last night, FGN made the announcement to close Abuja and Lagos airports to international flights with effect from Monday, March 23, 2020. This announcement should have caused the traveling public to be distracted with how they would reunite with family and friends outside Nigeria. Yet, the news, which turned out to be false, that an official from the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in Abuja tested positive for COVID-19, exploded through social media like wildfire yesterday afternoon, blowing up phones and causing a much larger buzz than the news about the airports closing to international flights. What is going on?
A quote often attributed to American writer and humorist Mark Twain explains it this way, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.”
Indeed, there is something about human nature that we cling to an untruth and spread it much faster than we do a truth. So, what are the myths and conspiracy theories, the “lies and untruths,” about COVID-19?
This letter will be about COVID-19: Myths and Conspiracy Theories
Yesterday, I said COVID-19 is both a pandemic and an infodemic. Building on this, the explosion of information available about COVID-19 challenges us to sift through the reliable, accurate information and discard the unreliable, inaccurate information. An invisible enemy, such as COVID-19, causes us to react and behave in ways that can be counterproductive to protecting ourselves. We seek to gain control over the situation, to prevent this invisible enemy from harming us and our families and friends. It is easy to want to believe “quick fixes” and “home cures” and “ideas that exclude us from being targeted,” but most of these are in fact myths.
What are some Myths about COVID-19?
The following 10 myths are unsubstantiated claims about COVID-19:
- COVID-19 cannot be transmitted in hot and humid climates
- Taking a hot bath or using a hot sauna can prevent COVID-19 from infecting you
- COVID-19 can be transmitted through mosquito bites
- Hair dryers can kill COVID-19
- Spraying alcohol or chlorine all over your body will kill COVID-19
- Vaccines against pneumonia or the flu protect you from COVID-19
- Eating garlic will prevent becoming infected with COVID-19
- Only older people can become critically ill from COVID-19
- Antibiotics can be used to prevent and cure COVID-19
- If I have no symptoms, I cannot be a carrier of COVID-19 and I cannot spread it
What are some Conspiracy Theories about COVID-19?
The following 5 conspiracy theories are circling the globe about COVID-19:
- COVID-19 was deliberately created or released by people as a bioweapon (the Chinese, the US military, known terrorist groups, etc)
- COVID-19 was accidentally, or intentionally, leaked from The Institute of Virology, a scientific lab, in Wuhan, China
- COVID-19 was spread from people eating soup made from bats
- COVID-19 is related to 5G exposure (new wireless technology)
- COVID-19 is a plot led by Bill Gates for financial gain
Misinformation is like a virus. It spreads from person to person, infecting their thinking, and displacing accurate information. My tagline for my letters is “Spread the news, not the virus” and I want to be here to help guide you with accurate, reliable, trustworthy news. We are in a time of heightened anxiety about the future, too much is unknown, and we do not know who or which institutions to trust. The frontal lobes of our brains are in overdrive to understand what is going on, and we are motivated to do something to relieve the helplessness we all feel. So the temptation to turn to myths and conspiracy theories to help explain what is happening is a real phenomenon, it is human nature.
Interestingly, speaking of Bill Gates, he warned us about a catastrophe like COVID-19, exactly 5 years ago in March 2015, in a compelling TED Talk, “The Next Outbreak? We’re Not Ready.” Here is the TED Link and the Youtube Link:
Together, we will continue the fight against COVID-19, as well as the fight against misinformation.
Always, with best regards, stay safe, Semper Gumby
Dawn Dekle, PhD
AUN President (Vice-Chancellor)
Teaser: stay tuned for the next letter from the desk of the AUN President, on the topic “COVID-19: Some Anecdotes from AUN”