Amid the secondary infection of new coronavirus pushing up the total cases to near 5,000, fake news stores sources disguised as medical colleges or hospitals are aggravating confusion among the public.
These fake news items concerning COVID-19 typically mix some confirmed facts by citing doctors as their sources to make them more plausible and credible.
Severance Hospital recently said on its Facebook that all news items which say, “We are sharing information received from Severance Hospital,” are fake news.
According to the hospital, one such fake news created fear by alleging that half of the patients' lungs are affected by fibrosis by the time they visit a hospital due to cough and fever, adding that a former director of Severance Hospital provided the information.
Another fake news item says that Taiwanese experts have offered a simple diagnosis of infection; if someone can inhale deeply and hold the breath for more than 10 seconds without coughing or feeling discomfort or stuffiness every morning, that person is uninfected.
Also, some Japanese physicians are quoted to have recommended drinking water every 15 minutes, for drinking water or other beverages cause the virus to travel down to the stomach and die of gastric acid.
Experts – real ones -- say, however, drinking water cannot prevent or confirm infection. The stomach acid can kill the virus, but drinking water cannot prevent contamination when the bronchial tubes have already been infected.
“These contents have no relation with Severance Hospital, and we recommend to wear masks and take care of your health rather than trusting fake news and myths," the hospital said.
Other fake news articles are carrying the name of Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH).
The news, which allegedly came from the chat rooms of the SNU College of Medicine alumni, said that the government ultimately failed to prevent the spreading. It also added unconfirmed information, saying it is impossible to go to the hospital after infection, and people can be infected at screening clinics, amplifying public anxieties. It also advised collecting nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, antibiotics, antitussives, and emergency foods as soon as possible.
However, the news is false because not a single infection has been made at the screening clinics.
Medical teams wear protective clothing before taking samples and sterilize the clinic to prevent inter-patient infections that may occur. After a person is examined, health officials disinfect the clinics. Plus, drive-through screening clinics for avoiding infection and mass sampling are expanding.
The recommendation to buy aspirin, Advil, and painkiller seems to advise patients to treat themselves at home. COVID-19 patients should visit a hospital in the early stage to receive treatment.
The Korean Medical Association (KMA) has asked people not to be misled by fake news. The spread of fake news carrying the title of “Corona 19 Recommendations,” has increased people's anxiety, it said.
"Fake information can cause fatal damage to the public if it spreads as an official recommendation from experts or organizations under the current situation when the public's anxiety is increasing," said Kim Dae-ha, public relations director of KMA.