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Clarifying COVID-19 – Our Top Six Online Resources

Paula Younger

Contributor

At the end of December 2019, the World Health Organization in Geneva learned of a new type of infection in Wuhan, China. What we now know as COVID-19 has spread around the globe at breakneck speed – a true pandemic. We look at some of the most authoritative sources of COVID-19 information. Be aware, however, that the evidence base is constantly changing within all these sources.

The World Health Organisation

Founded in 1948, the World Health Organization is a specialised agency of the United Nations, concerned with international public health. It was instrumental in helping to eradicate smallpox and the organisation has decades of expertise. 

The WHO remains one of the most authoritative and frequently updated sources there is. It’s an authoritative source for information and updates on the situation with 2019-nCoV, or COVID-19. (The first is the virus that causes the disease, the second the disease.)

If you’re wondering what to believe, there’s even a myth busters page on the site which can be found here.

CDC, Centre for Disease Control, USA

You know that cutting-edge science you’re always hearing about when it comes to infections? Much of it takes place at the CDC. As the health protection agency for the United States of America, the CDC’s aims are to protect people and save lives. 

The CDC website has a dedicated section for COVID-19, including advice on how to spot symptoms, how to protect yourself, a visual map of cases in each state, and specialised advice for healthcare professionals, families, business and others. You can also choose to sign up for e-mail alerts - see this link.

In previous US administrations, a dedicated member of CDC staff worked in an embedded post in Beijing devoted to monitoring emerging diseases in China. The post was defunded in 2019. 

European CDC, Centres for Disease Control, European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC)

The US-based CDC is not the only one out there. The European Centres for Disease Control (ECDC) are based in Stockholm and collect date for the whole world.

This website includes the latest situation update, epidemiological curve and global distribution, a current risk assessment and a Q&A on COVID-19. 

There are two views available from the dashboard here. The All Reported Cases tab gives an overview of cases around the world, updated at 13.00 each day. The Enhanced Surveillance tab is updated every hour and has information on European cases.

Other visual dashboards include those from the BBC, the New York Times, the CDC, and the WHO. There is also a dashboard from Microsoft available via Bing that you can cross-check with the sources above. 

Johns Hopkins University 

Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is maintaining an easy-to-read dashboard with a choice of views showing cases by country, US state. It’s updated very regularly, usually several times a day. 

As well as total cases, there are also numbers showing how many COVID-19 sufferers have recovered from the virus, and how many have not. The dashboard can be found here.

The National Library for Medicine (including Pubmed)

If you want to keep an eye on the research being published in the most influential medical journals, Pubmed is a freely available database of over 30 million citations from some of the most authoritative medical and scientific journals in the world. (Yes, we really did say 30 million. And it grows. Every. Single. Day.) It also includes masses of full-text articles and online books.

For something as volatile and novel (in the sense of being new) as COVID-19, Pubmed can offer a way of seeing how the available knowledge is constantly growing. Check it out here- the page also incorporates links from the CDC. 

The International Association of National Public Health Institutes

The IANPHI has links to advice on COVID-19 from organisations around the world. As well as the WHO, the CDC, and the ECDC, there are links to Africa Centres For Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China (NHC China), and Santé Publique France. Many other organisations are included on this page.

How to know if what you're reading is reliable

Not sure how to establish the accuracy of a resource?  Check out the tutorial at the US Library of Medicine. Consider the following: 

1. Who put the information together? What’s their background or agenda?


2. What are the credentials of those putting the site together? For healthcare, do clinicians or scientists or other trained professionals contribute or check the data?


3. Why is the site there? Is it to provide information, sell a product or service, or convince you of a particular point of view?


4. When was the site compiled? When was the information last updated? Many COVID-19 sites say when they were last reviewed or updated, but many will not. 


5. Where is the site based? Is it put together in a location where information provision and openness of expression is regarded as a right? 


6. How is the information expressed? Is it laid out clearly, is jargon explained, and are illustrations used to support the text? 

Other Sources of COVID-19 Information

You’ll also find information from your local state, city, county, province or prefecture. COVID-19 is still so new that the information available is evolving constantly, including details of testing and the best way to cope with the condition.

There are also many specialised resources out there for healthcare providers and for particular business sectors. Before you act on the information available, just pause and consider how accurate the information is likely to be. So, proceed with caution, and stay safe!

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