The recent Coronavirus outbreak, now named COVID-19, has created a buzz surrounding the topic of disease and the communicable variables that spread these diseases.
Coronavirus is nothing new. Most of the common colds we deal with everyday are caused by a coronavirus. However the version causing uproar in the early months of 2020 is similar to outbreaks in recent history, but it is being dealt with in a very different manner.
In 2003, the SARS outbreak created a stir when the Chinese government chose not to disclose the outbreak because of the impression it may give. This prevented mass hysteria however the decision caused the disease to spread at a quicker rate and delayed the process of treatment development.
This decision may have cost lives. The current outbreak, is being handled in a very different manner. There is a running count and open and honest communication between country borders. This has allowed for the virus to be identified as a unique strain in a matter of weeks, a treatment system to be implicated, and quarantines to take place. Ethically, this manner of communication is much more justifiable.
The news of COVID-19 sparked more than a scientific race for prevention and treatment. The internet grabbed onto the new sensation to create jokes, no matter who would be harmed. Racist memes became some of the most popular mass humor on social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram within days of the news. This perpetrated already recognized xenophobia and sinophobia, both which are often acted upon using disease and outsiders as justification.
With this being said, social media has also been an outlet for “fake news.” Many believe that the spread of the disease has been aided by the spread of fake news. This “infodemic” has challenged Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets to combat potentially life-threatening falsities on their platforms. This step into the new age for health professionals has created easy distribution for false information.
Coronavirus has a lot of ethical debates surrounding it: how to manage disease information, humor and social media, and the spread of false information. All of these have an effect on the public’s view of Coronavirus and how we will handle future epidemics.