As we’ve learned over the last few weeks it’s very easy for people to form misconceptions about COVID-19 based on things they read in social media posts. A recent Stanford survey of people in both the United States and the United Kingdom identifies common perceptions and misconceptions held by the general public.
… For example, most respondents (79.8% U.S., 84.6% UK) know that cough, fever and shortness of breath are the common symptoms of the disease. Some people, however, think that nosebleeds, rash, constipation or frequent urination are other symptoms of coronavirus (25.5% U.S., 18.7% UK), which they are not.
… The vast majority of people (74.8% U.S., 81.2% UK) also know the most common way the disease is transmitted: droplets of saliva from an infected person when they sneeze or cough.
… When it comes to limiting the spread of the disease, the majority of people (92.6% U.S., 86% UK) correctly identified frequent hand-washing, avoiding close contact with people that are sick, and avoiding touching the face as appropriate methods to prevent catching an infection. However, a good number of people (43.5% U.S., 36% UK) think that the myths from the WHO can also help: using an electric hand dryer, taking antibiotics, rinsing the nose with saltwater regularly, or gargling mouthwash.
… The survey also shows that a significant number of people (37.8% U.S., 29.7% UK) still believe that wearing a common surgical mask is a very effective way to protect themselves from getting infected with the coronavirus. Hand-washing and social-distancing are much more effective at preventing the spread of the disease than face masks.
… Many people think that Asians are more likely to be infected with the coronavirus, especially if they are seen wearing a face-mask. Over one-quarter from both surveys (25.6% U.S., 29.6% UK) think it’s wise to even refrain from eating Chinese food entirely. And a significant number (29.7% U.S., 40.8%) say that if they were Uber drivers they would reject rides requested by people with Asian-sounding names or appear Asian in their profile picture.