EDITORIAL: Don't let outbreak rumours spread faster than the virus itself

Pandemics like the one currently seen in the novel coronavirus are terrifying. They are the raw material of science-fiction horror movies that we don’t want to ever become science fact.

In Canada, health officials understand the human propensity for panic and have been very careful in their comments on the global outbreak so far.

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But predictably, where there isn’t a lot of solid information to go on is where fear and misinformation flourishes.

One thing that spreads faster than viruses are rumours – and the coronavirus is an excellent example of that.

While health officials lectured sternly about the proper sources of information, social media threads were exploding with all manner of fear-provoking hysteria and conspiracy theory.

Now that B.C.’s first “presumptive” case of the virus has been publicly acknowledged, a more proactive approach to dealing with the rumour mill on the part of health authorities would be a good idea.

We’re encouraged to hear their commitment to share information.

So far, health officials say there’s a need to be prudent but not to be fearful. The one man who has the virus is remaining in his home and he and his family and being watched carefully.

Of course this is a rapidly changing situation. It’s likely more cases will be confirmed here before long.

For now, however, the best advice against the spread of the virus is to use common sense – wash your hands, stay home when sick, cough into your sleeve, don’t touch your face.

Stay calm and don’t believe everything being spread about the virus online.

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