Saturday 11 April 2020

Knowing more about a virus threat may not satisfy you

People who rate themselves as highly knowledgeable about a new infectious disease threat could also be more likely to believe they don't know enough, a new study suggests.
In the case of this study, the infectious disease threat was the Zika virus. But the authors of the new study, published recently in the journal Risk Analysis, say the results could apply to the recent novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

"The Zika virus and the coronavirus have important things in common," said Shelly Hovick, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University.
"In both cases, they are shrouded in uncertainty and have received a lot of media attention. Our research looks at how people seek and process information when there is so much uncertainty."

One of the key findings of the new study: With limited information about Zika available, more knowledge was not that comforting.

"We found that the more people thought they knew, the more they realized they didn't know enough," said Austin Hubner, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in communication at Ohio State.

"With the Zika virus, even the experts themselves didn't know much at the time. That's the same thing we're seeing with the coronavirus, and that's scary for people who believe they are at risk."

For the study, the researchers conducted an online survey of 494 people of childbearing age living in Florida in December 2016.


Austin Y. Hubner, Shelly R. Hovick. Understanding Risk Information Seeking and Processing during an Infectious Disease Outbreak: The Case of Zika Virus. Risk Analysis, 2020; DOI: 10.1111/risa.13456

Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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