How can I find good-quality information about the coronavirus?

The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind right now. Many people are finding out about it on the internet or from sharing on social networks. There is a lot of good information on the internet – but unfortunately plenty of misinformation as well.

What's more, the current state of scientific knowledge is changing on a nearly daily basis, and it is the serious researchers who are frankly stating that they can’t give reliable answers to every question at the moment.

How do I find good-quality information?

It’s not easy to separate the good information from the bad. Official agencies provide reliable and up-to-date information on the following sites:

What should you look for when using search engines?

  • The order your search results are presented in doesn’t tell you anything about the reliability or the quality of the information.
  • Many search engines do try to get serious information on the coronavirus into the top-ranked hits. But there’s no guarantee. Depending on your search terms, less reliable websites or advertising could still land near the top.
  • Find out who is responsible for issuing the information and what sort of aims the provider of the information is pursuing.

Be cautious

  • if the information is praising treatments that are supposed to prevent or cure the disease caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • if the spread or the danger of the coronavirus is massively played down.
  • if recommendations are given that contradict what you are hearing from the health authorities.
  • if advertising for the relevant product appears right next to the article.
  • if products are being sold either directly or through linked store pages.

What do you need to be careful about in social networks?

Information spreads fast on platforms like Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. The exchange of ideas can help – but it can also sow confusion. Misinformation is something that always comes around sooner or later. So put some careful consideration into which information you believe and which information you share with others!

So check the information for consistency with the facts that you get from public organizations like the Robert Koch Institute or the World Health Organization. Professional media organizations are also often very quick to debunk misinformation.

And there are people who intentionally spread lies, for example by using manipulated images. Political groups often take advantages of crises for their own purposes as well. So take the information with a grain of salt – for example, if the reports are especially dramatic or if the blame is being placed on certain groups (for example, other countries).

How do I assess an internet website on my own?

Who produces and finances the website?
  • You can usually find that information in “Legal notice,” “Contact” or “About us” sections.
  • It’s problematic if there are financial ties or advantages (which may be covered up) for the people who run the website.
  • Good websites state the names of the website operator, the authors and their qualifications, as well as information about how the website is financed.
Are the motives and goals stated?
  • Be cautious if products or services are advertised or marketed directly, and that is also how the website is financed.
  • Be suspicious if you are urged to make a decision or intentionally frightened, or if the information represents extreme positions.

Checklist: Good websites ...

Language
  • convey knowledge objectively and in a neutral tone.
  • explain technical terms.
  • avoid ideological terms like “traditional medicine,” “holistic medicine,” or “natural medicine.”
Content
  • explain which measures can help to limit the spread of the coronavirus. describe what researchers still aren’t sure about.
  • provide additional sites that can offer more support and further information.
Sources
  • list their sources under the information.
  • use scientific articles and correctly convey their contents.
  • do not use real-life stories as for the effectiveness of a particular treatment.
Up-to-date
  • show what date the information was published or updated.
  • are up-to-date. The facts about the coronavirus are developing very quickly.
Data privacy
  • describe how they handle user data (data privacy policy). This is especially important if you enter your personal data – like when you subscribe to a newsletter.

DISCERN-Online. Das DISCERN-Instrument. May 8, 2005.

Dobbins M, Watson S, Read K, Graham K, Yousefi Nooraie R, Levinson AJ. A Tool That Assesses the Evidence, Transparency, and Usability of Online Health Information: Development and Reliability Assessment. JMIR Aging 2018; 1(1): e3.

Health On the Net. Discover the 8 principles of the HONcode in 35 languages: Deutsch. November 2019.

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany). Concept for a national health portal: Concept; Commission P17-02. August 31, 2018. (IQWiG reports; Volume 654).

Lühnen J, Albrecht M, Mühlhauser I, Steckelberg A. Leitlinie evidenzbasierte Gesundheitsinformation. February 20, 2017.

IQWiG health information is written with the aim of helping people understand the advantages and disadvantages of the main treatment options and health care services.

Because IQWiG is a German institute, some of the information provided here is specific to the German health care system. The suitability of any of the described options in an individual case can be determined by talking to a doctor. informedhealth.org can provide support for talks with doctors and other medical professionals, but cannot replace them. We do not offer individual consultations.

Our information is based on the results of good-quality studies. It is written by a team of health care professionals, scientists and editors, and reviewed by external experts. You can find a detailed description of how our health information is produced and updated in our methods.

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Please note that we do not provide individual advice on matters of health. You can read about where to find help and support in Germany in our information “How can I find self-help groups and information centers?

Created on March 21, 2020
Next planned update: 2021

Authors/Publishers:

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG, Germany)

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