This editorial recommends every country design a risk communication plan and an epidemic control plan that takes into consideration difficult-to-control infodemics.
Infodemics, a rapid spread of information concerning a problem such that the solution is made more difficult, is an uprising challenge with the increased use of social media, and COVID-19 appears to be a true social media infodemic compared to previous viral outbreaks. Fears surrounding COVID-19 have been particularly exaggerated on social media, leading to the spread of disinformation at exceptional speeds. This has created an environment of amplified uncertainty, leading to anxiety and racism.
Using an agent-based model, scholars found that by decreasing the amount of harmful information online by 10% or making at least 20% of the population unable to share fake advice reduces the severity of the disease outbreak. Utilizing risk communication to minimize fear and reduce uncertainty is an evidence-based strategy to minimize the spread of epidemics. This should be accomplished by (1) communicating honestly and clearly about what is known and unknown, (2) listening to the community discuss their fears and perceptions, and (3) managing rumors and infodemics as quickly as possible. Target audiences must trust the source of information, and to build trust, leaders should communicate timely, easy-to-understand, transparent, and accessible information.