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When Outbreaks Go Viral

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  • When Outbreaks Go Viral


    When Outbreaks Go Viral
    In the age of social media, fears and rumors about outbreaks and epidemics can quickly spread out of control.
    By Mike Ives
    October 18, 2016

    In the spring of 2014, Vietnam’s state-controlled news media reported that dozens of children had died after turning up at hospitals in the capital, Hanoi, with rashes and high fevers. Doctors said the cause was a measles outbreak—the worst in Vietnamese history.

    Parents of victims rushed onto Facebook to share their grief and outrage. So did their friends and neighbours, who wanted to know how the outbreak was spreading, and whether it was even safe to take children to hospital. The authorities distributed information about the measles deaths via leaflets, loudspeaker bulletins and updates on the health ministry’s website, recalls a nurse at a state-run hospital in Hanoi, who requested anonymity in order to speak frankly. “But there was so much information online that some people became panicked.”...