Don’t let them fool you: how to avoid being misinformed about COVID-19

Don’t let them fool you: how to avoid being misinformed about COVID-19

15 Apr 2020

In dealing with our concerns and uncertainties about the Corona virus crisis, we all look for information that will help us better the current situation. On a daily basis, we are exposed to an overload of news, advice and opinions from experts, but unfortunately also from less reliable sources.

Beware of fake corona news

Recently, Maastricht University’s president Martin Paul warned us about the amount of misinformation going around:

Read those (news) with caution, especially when it comes to medical advice, as the backgrounds and credentials of so-called experts are not always clear.

In addition, WHO Director-Genral Tedros adhanom states:

…we’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic. Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous.”

Why are we being warned? It is because the effects of ‘being misinformed’ can be quite adverse; research indicates that misinformation can lead to societal under- or over-reactions, sub-optimal decision making which sabotage effective measures that combat the outbreak, and bring unnecessary problems (e.g., panic buying/”corona parties”).


So how do we protect ourselves from being misinformed?

A good start is to check quality and origin of the source. There are simple techniques available that help to distinguish trustworthy from unreliable information. For example the CRAAP-test provides a set of questions to identify the currency, relevance, authority, a, and purpose of the given source. If you are more concerned with quick scans of social media posts, the 4-moves provides a credible framework to check online sources for their reliability.

In addition, many publishers and content providers have provide freely available information sources on COVID-19. By providing these open access sources, they not only aim to counter misinformation, but also remove barriers for research and provide better insight into what works and does not work in patient care. Also, to facilitate online education, more general information sources have become available

The following section of this page provides an overview of the open access information sources on COVID-19. For your convenience, we have organised these resources according to the headings below: Statistics, Risk Assessment and Governmental Health Policies, Prevention, Management and Treatment and Trusted Literature Data Hubs


Would you rather search for COVID-19 information yourself?

Here you find useful information, provided by our library domain specialists and international literature searching experts that will help you with your search:

DIY: COVID-19 database search

Do you want to perform your own literature search and need some basic guidelines? Please check our online training.On 13 February 2020, a new MeSH Supplementary Concept Record (SCR Class 3-Disease) was added to the 2020 MeSH Browser in response to the World Health Organization (WHO) announcing an official name of the disease caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus: COVID-19. Please check the MeSH Browser for the most current updates to this SCR.

The search strings indicated below, were developed by external and internal professional information searchers. These strings can be used as an example or inspiration. For regular updates on search strings, please consult the following sites: MLA, COVID-19 Search Strings created by expert searchers, The Dutch Department of Biomedical Information. 

Medline search, created by Ovid Expert Searchers
Copy and paste each line into MEDLINE:

  1. (exp coronavirus/ or coronavirus*.mp.) and (wuhan or beijing or shanghai or 2019-nCoV or nCoV or COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2).mp.
  2. coronavirus*.ti. or (novel coronavirus*.mp. and (exp china/ or or (( or exp pneumonia/) and
  3. (‘COVID-19’ or ‘2019-nCov’ or ‘SARS-CoV-2’).mp. or exp Coronavirus Infections/
  4. 2 or 3
  5. limit 4 to yr=”2020 -Current”

PubMed general search
((wuhan[All Fields] AND (“coronavirus”[MeSH Terms] OR “coronavirus”[All Fields])) AND 2019/12[PDAT] : 2030[PDAT]) OR 2019-nCoV[All Fields] OR 2019nCoV[All Fields] OR COVID-19[All Fields] OR SARS-CoV-2[All Fields]

Pubmed sensitive search
(“COVID-19″[Supplementary Concept] OR “COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “2019 novel coronavirus disease”[All Fields]) OR (“COVID-19″[Supplementary Concept] OR “COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “2019 novel coronavirus infection”[All Fields]) OR (“COVID-19″[Supplementary Concept] OR “COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “2019 ncov disease”[All Fields]) OR (“COVID-19″[Supplementary Concept] OR “COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “2019 ncov infection”[All Fields]) OR (“COVID-19″[Supplementary Concept] OR “COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “coronavirus disease 2019″[All Fields]) OR (“COVID-19″[Supplementary Concept] OR “COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “coronavirus disease 19″[All Fields]) OR (coronavirus[All Fields] OR coronavirus'[All Fields] OR coronavirus’s[All Fields] OR coronavirusapplikation[All Fields] OR coronaviruscpe[All Fields] OR coronaviruse[All Fields] OR coronaviruses[All Fields] OR coronaviruses'[All Fields] OR coronavirusinfektion[All Fields] OR coronavirusinfektionen[All Fields] OR coronaviruslike[All Fields] OR coronavirusreplikation[All Fields] OR coronavirussen[All Fields] OR coronavirusurile[All Fields]) OR (coronovirus[All Fields] OR coronoviruses[All Fields]) OR (“coronavirus infections”[MeSH Terms] OR (“coronavirus”[All Fields] AND “infections”[All Fields]) OR “coronavirus infections”[All Fields]) OR (“severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[Supplementary Concept] OR “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[All Fields] OR “wuhan coronavirus”[All Fields]) OR (“severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[Supplementary Concept] OR “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[All Fields] OR “2019 ncov”[All Fields]) OR (“COVID-19″[All Fields] OR “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[Supplementary Concept] OR “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[All Fields] OR “2019-nCoV”[All Fields] OR “SARS-CoV-2″[All Fields] OR “2019nCoV”[All Fields] OR ((“Wuhan”[All Fields] AND (“coronavirus”[MeSH Terms] OR “coronavirus”[All Fields])) AND 2019/12[PDAT] : 2030[PDAT])) OR (wn[All Fields] AND (“complications”[Subheading] OR “complications”[All Fields] OR “co”[All Fields])) OR (novel[All Fields] AND (“coronavirus”[MeSH Terms] OR “coronavirus”[All Fields])) OR (new[All Fields] AND (“coronavirus”[MeSH Terms] OR “coronavirus”[All Fields])) OR (2019[All Fields] AND novel[All Fields]) OR (new[All Fields] AND (“coronavirus”[MeSH Terms] OR “coronavirus”[All Fields])) OR ncov[All Fields] OR (“severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[Supplementary Concept] OR “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2″[All Fields] OR “sars cov 2″[All Fields]) OR (ncov[All Fields] OR ncov'[All Fields] OR ncov’s[All Fields] OR ncovascularisatlon[All Fields] OR ncovering[All Fields] OR ncovid[All Fields] OR ncovin[All Fields] OR ncovino[All Fields] OR ncovp[All Fields] OR ncovp1[All Fields] OR ncovs[All Fields]) AND wuhan[All Fields]

 Google Scholar search, created by medical librarian Wichor Bramer (Erasmus MC–Erasmus University Medical Centre).
covid19|”covid 19”|2019ncov|”2019 ncov|cov|coronavirus”| “2019 novel|new coronavirus|cov”| “wuhan coronavirus|cov|ncov|outbreak”| “wuhan*coronavirus|cov|ncov|outbreak”| “wuhan**coronavirus|cov|ncov|outbreak”|”coronavirus|cov|ncov*wuhan”

Do you need help with your information search related to COVID-19?
Our domain specialists are available to run guide you in your search. You can contact hem via Ask your Librarian.
TIP! Is the lock-down making you very bored? Do you enjoy searching for reliable information? Take part in the CORD-19 Research Challenge.


Information sources

Statistics, Risk Assessment and Governmental Health Policies
  • RIVM The Dutch national institute for public health conducts independent research in the field of Public Health, Health Services, Environmental Safety and Security.
  • ECDC Risk assessments, public health guidance, and advice on response activities to EU Member States and the EU Commission.
  • WHO Provides access to the Global Health Observatory database, providing statistics on who is falling sick from COVID-19, and where.
  • Worldometer Estimation of the current COVID-19 numbers,based on statistics and projections from official international organisations.
  • UpToDate Synopsis of the best evidence about epidemiology, clinical features, diagnosis, management, and prevention of COVID-19 infections.
  • CCSE TIP! interactive dashboard enables real-time tracking the COVID-19 spread with data available for download. It also models the spread of the virus.
Prevention, Management and Treatment
  • ClinicalTrials information on clinical studies related to the coronavirus disease.
  • Disaster Lit expert guidelines, research reports, conference proceedings, training classes, fact sheets, websites, databases and similar materials for a professional audience.
  • Jove Corona virus video recourse centre containing video with coronavirus focussed content.
  • JAMA publications on COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment.
  • Ovid Tools and resources for front-line clinicians and medical researches.
  • LitCovid literature hub for tracking up-to-date scientific information on treatment.
  • Cochrane special collections: infection control and prevention measures systematic reviews most directly relevant to the prevention of infection with COVID-19.
  • Cochrane special collections: evidence relevant to critical care Systematic reviews most directly relevant to the management of people hospitalized with severe acute respiratory infections.
  • EvidenceAid Evidence based collection of summaries on research into the clinical management and infection prevention.
Trusted Data Hubs
  • CORD-19 Open Research Dataset containing of over 44,000 scholarly articles.
  • WHO Database of the latest scientific findings and knowledge.
  • LitCovid A curated literature hub for tracking publications describing general information and news.
  • bioRxiv Unpublished preprints on COVID-19. It is operated by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, a not-for-profit research and educational institution.
  • QxMD AI digital database searching for breaking research on COVID-19.
  • The Public Health Emergency COVID-19 Initiative
    On 13 March 2020, the National Science and Technology Advisors from a dozen countries called on publishers to voluntarily agree to make their COVID-19 and coronavirus-related publications, and the available data supporting them, immediately accessible in PubMed Central (PMC) and other appropriate public repositories to support the ongoing public health emergency response efforts. The repository is now supported by more than 40 international publishers, including The British Medical Journal (BMJ), Cambridge University Press (CUP), Cell Press, Elsevier, Frontiers, The Lancet, Life Science Alliance, Microbiology Society, New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Oxford University Press, PLOS, The Royal Society, SAGE Publishing, Science Journals, Springer Nature, Taylor & Francis, Wiley, Wolters Kluwer.

Author: Nicolette Siep, UM Library Information Specialist for FPN


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) License.


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