According to a new study published in American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene reports of misinformation, rumours, stigma, and conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic have been spreading in at least 25 languages in 87 countries between December 2019 up till April 2020.
The study stated that most of the rumours were identified from India, followed by the US, China, Spain, Indonesia and Brazil.
The study was conducted by a team of social scientists, medical doctors, and epidemiologists from various institutions in Bangladesh, Australia, Thailand and Japan, who analyzed reports published on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, organisations' websites as well as e-newspapers.
Among all the categories of misinformation tracked, 24 per cent of them were related to illness, transmission, and mortality; 21 per cent about control interventions; 19 per cent about possible treatments and cures; 15 per cent about the cause of disease including the origin, 1 per cent about violence and 20 per cent were miscellaneous.
Of the 2,276 reports for which the text ratings were available, 1,856 claims were found to be false. The other 204 were correct accounting for 9 per cent. While 176 of the total were misleading, summing up for 8 per cent and 31 were unverified claims accounting for 1 per cent reports.
There were 2,311 reports related to the novel coronavirus, of which 89 per cent were categorized rumours, 7.8 per cent were conspiracy theories and 3.5 per cent were stigma, the study further reads. The volume of rumours escalated from the month of February and saw a peak in March 2020.
The report, through a bar paragraph, showed the maximum number of such reports were prevalent in India. The U.S, China, Spain and the UK had their share of a maximum number of misinformation.
Rumour reports that were recorded from India were related to drinking tea and cow urine or dung. Reports of self-stigma were also reported. For example, a man in India killed himself because of a misconception that he had coronavirus infection and due to the feeling of guilt and shame of contracting the virus and infecting the family, along with an impression of how the society will react to that.
A myth about consuming highly concentrated alcohol for disinfecting the body and killing the virus had also been circulating in India. The study quotes an instance of 12 people, including children, who died after drinking liquor made from toxic seed Datura. The victims had reportedly watched a video on social media that Datura seeds give immunity against COVID-19.