The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health wants the public to think critically about COVID-19 risks, effects and safety measures as we all deal with this unprecedented pandemic.

Ajay Sethi
Ajay Sethi

With myths circulating on social media and new research constantly emerging, experts urge the public and patients to be thoughtful and careful when absorbing and sharing information about the novel coronavirus, according to Ajay Sethi, PhD, faculty director of the master of public health program and associate professor of population health sciences, UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Best practices for seeking and sharing information include:

  • On the web, use trusted health resources managed by experts such as the sites run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and UW Health.
  • On TV, always take note of who is speaking. Are they a physician? A nurse? A public health expert? Or quoting someone who is? Are other healthcare providers sharing similar, up-to-date information and recommendations?
  • On social media, think critically about everything you see. Medical journals, reputable news sources and healthcare organizations review information for accuracy. Before “liking” or “sharing,” seek the above sources for the most accurate information.

Finally, our knowledge of COVID-19 is still evolving. For example, you might hear someone isn’t practicing physical distancing because they are 25 years old and think only older people get COVID-19. While early trends led us to focus most of our attention on older adults, we know that younger people get the virus and can have serious symptoms. In fact, 26% of Wisconsin residents who tested positive for COVID-19 are ages 20 to 29, the largest percentage of any age group. This virus is still new, and we are learning more about it every day.

“Scientific and medical information is being generated and disseminated hourly and daily,” Sethi said. “Keeping up can be overwhelming, and it's important for all of us to take our time to process information after we see it, particularly if it contradicts what we have heard before and already believe.”

Sethi is available to talk about COVID-19 myths and health literacy today.