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Ask Mayo: Identifying misinformation about COVID-19

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Q: How can people identify and avoid misinformation about COVID-19?

A: If you’re trying to check something you heard, or are going to a website or vetting something that you’ve seen in social media about COVID-19, you can incorporate some tips as a checklist to identify misinformation:

  • Is what you’re hearing or reading coming from a trusted site, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? If so, that’s good.
  • Does what you’ve been hearing or reading make miraculous claims or disagree with guidance from public health authorities, such as the CDC?
  • Can you run what you’re hearing or reading by your health care provider? Your health care provider is a trusted source of information and can help you vet this kind of information.

When you’re unsure if something you’re hearing or reading is misinformation, you also can type the claim into a Google search. You will often find that it’s either been refuted as a false claim or part of a misinformation campaign, or it is true.

Always check the research. Sometimes when people say they’ve researched a topic or claim, what they did was conduct an internet search looking for information that supports what they want to say. Just because someone says, “I have done my research, and I learned this fact,” do not believe that to be a vetted fact.Sometimes you can’t determine if what you’re hearing or reading is true. In those cases, don’t share it what you’re hearing or reading, especially if it’s something that’s counter to public health advice. That’s the kind of thing that can kind of go viral within a social network, and then other people start to believe it. Instead, seek the truth from a trusted source, such as your health care provider.

— Dr. Melanie Swift, Mayo Clinic preventive medicine physician at Mayo Clinic in Rochester


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