February 23, 2021

Superspreaders come in all forms

After a year, we understand much more about how SARS-CoV-2 is spread and makes someone a superspreader. Studies show that 20% of people infected are the cause of 80% of transmissions. Older people, people with higher viral loads (more infectious viruses in their system), and people with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) exhaled many more respiratory infectious droplets than others. At the same time, data shows that half of infections come from people who don’t show any symptoms. No wonder it is easy to spread and why masks work.

It turns out there are other kinds of super spreaders out there. The ones spreading disinformation, both about the virus itself and about vaccines. Worldwide rumors and false claims have spread about the origins of SARS-CoV-2, thought to be spread by countries like China, Russia, or other countries, as well as other posters on social media. The Associated Press did an analysis to see who the superspreaders of conspiracy theories are. Many world leaders contributed. It is an interesting read, which sadly illustrates the world we live in now. Viral misinformation spreads faster than the virus itself.

The biggest challenge facing us now is the viral disinformation about the vaccines. Many people have become vaccine skeptics because of the algorithms in Facebook leading them to polarization of beliefs and fears about vaccines. Other social media leads to similar polarization and skepticism. Some religious leaders also disseminate false claims, which is then magnified by social media. Conspiracy theories abound and fears of long term damage by the vaccines such as infertility claims or microchips being implanted scared people off. Changing minds is difficult once doubt enters the picture.

How do we know the vaccines are safe? The CDC has published data from the first month of widespread use which is encouraging. Now with more than 44 million vaccinated the safety data is reassuring. The CDC has also made an APP called VSafe to collect data on side effects directly from everyone vaccinated. The App sends a text message daily for the first week to collect info on side effects and how someone feels, This is an amazing way to gather information more readily. When you get your COVID vaccine, you can sign up for it and contribute. Check it out: https://vsafe.cdc.gov

Disinformation can be more deadly than the virus. The best way to counteract it is to check sources and confirm. We can all fall into the river if we aren’t careful.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, become immune to disinformation

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.