Did you hear the news? The Wuhan coronavirus has made its way to American shores! As of now, there have been 6 confirmed cases in the United States, and many more sick people are still waiting for a confirmation on their symptoms.
As a result, the United States has issued a travel advisory for China, and is quarantining suspected cases at a rapid rate. But that hasn’t stopped misinformation about the virus from spreading online. Tap or click here for some of the most ridiculous fake coronavirus stories circulating.
As bad as those stories are, what’s worse is when fake news tries to pass itself off as real — especially when the intent is to spread fear and nothing more. And now, a fake CDC bulletin is confusing people about where the virus is actually spreading. If you see this, here’s why you should simply ignore it.
Is the CDC actually circulating a coronavirus warning to LA residents?
It’s an understatement to say that misinformation spreads easily on Facebook. In fact, it’s almost as if the platform was designed for this kind of rumor mongering and fear tactics. Tap or click here to learn more about a Facebook hoax that just won’t die.
But in the wake of the Wuhan coronavirus, fake news can potentially hurt people or cause unnecessary panic. This week, Facebook users have spotted a bulletin claiming to be from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that states the coronavirus is not only in LA County, but spreading rapidly.
This bulletin not only exaggerates the effects of the coronavirus, it also alleges that employees and residents in specific areas should “check themselves into the hospital immediately.” Were the virus actually spreading locally, this misinformation could potentially clog doctor wait times, and create undue burdens on hospital staff.
To clear up the confusion, LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn issued a tweet debunking the bulletin.
A fake letter has been circulating on Facebook regarding a supposed Coronavirus outbreak in the South Bay. This is not real. There is NO CURRENT THREAT to public health from the Coronavirus in Los Angeles County. pic.twitter.com/mwx9hqayL8— Janice Hahn (@SupJaniceHahn) January 30, 2020
While there is a confirmed coronavirus case in the Los Angeles area, the patient has been isolated to prevent further spread. At time of writing, there is no threat or health emergency in the immediate area.
How can I avoid getting tricked by fake news?
If you spread the story above by mistake, don’t feel bad — you’re not alone! Fake news is often engineered to play to the fears and doubts of its intended audiences. If it got you scared, outraged or sad, that means the story was effective. The emotional kick is crucial to these kinds of stories going viral (pardon the pun).
That’s why you should view any sensational stories with skepticism, and make sure to check their origin before sharing with your friends and loved ones. When it comes to stories like diseases, its best to place your faith in the scientists and academics that study pathogens like coronavirus for a living. They have skin in the game, after all.
But learning to spot fake news from a distance takes practice. It can even be difficult if the story is targeted to play to your personal beliefs or values. Always take a critical attitude towards stories that seem either too good or too awful to be true. The truth is often far more complicated.
Until social media platforms work to clean up or fact-check these obviously bogus stories, it’ll be up to us to filter the truth from the garbage. But in 2020, where deepfakes and international hackers run rampant, that’s no easy task.