July 8, 2020
AliExpress WW

Creating misinformation: how the headline in BMJ about covid-19 spreads through the virus

AliExpress WW
  1. Meike Wintersdoctoral candidate1,
  2. Ben Oppenheim, vice president of product, policy and partnerships2
  3. Jonas PeakInternal Medicine Therapist3
  4. Helena Nordenstedtinternal medicine specialist and project coordinator1
  1. 1Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

  2. 2Metabiota, San Francisco, California, USA

  3. 3Dunderids Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
  1. maike.winters {on} ki.se

The spread of the new coronavirus was accompanied by a viral spread of misinformation. Misinformation is easily created, as recent news in Bmj about a preprint claiming that “a third of 19 patients admitted to British hospitals die.”1 on Twitter Bmj added “put the mortality rate on a par with Ebola” based on a quote from one of the authors of the study. Unsurprisingly, this spawned news headlines such as “Experts warn the coronavirus – as dangerous as Ebola” in a new shocking new study. ”2

AliExpress WW

The Covid-19 Mortality Rate (CFR) – the ratio between confirmed deaths and confirmed cases – currently has a global average of around 6.5% .3 Given the diagnostic limitations of testing and significant case reports worldwide, the true mortality rate from Covid-19 infections are probably much lower. Ebola CFR is an average of 50% – every second patient with confirmed Ebola is likely to die. By simply comparing CFRs, covid-19 is obviously less deadly than Ebola.

The preprint, however, analyzed mortality rates (HFRs) in a 19th-generation hospital: mortality among a subset of cases serious enough to require hospitalization. In the case of covid-19, hospitalized cases account for only a small fraction of the total number of cases (although the exact proportion globally remains unclear). As for Ebola, almost all patients need inpatient treatment: CFR is about the same as HFR. Comparison of HFR covid-19 with CFR Ebola is at best uninformative, at worst misleading.

Combining the Ebola virus and Covid-19 in one sentence is an effective way to attract public attention, but not an effective strategy for transmitting scientific information, especially when public fear and anxiety are high. Misinformation is often a technically correct fact that breaks out of context, creating a narrative in itself5. Each new evidence deserves to be reported with due care, especially if it is published by a reliable source, such as a leading medical journal. ,

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with the terms and conditions of the BMJ website for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until the BMJ determines otherwise. You can use, download and print the article for any legal, non-commercial purposes (including extracting text and data), provided that all copyright and trademark notices are preserved.

https://bmj.com/coronavirus/usage

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