Evaluating Interest in Off-Label Use of Disinfectants for COVID-19 with Google Trends

11 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2020

See all articles by Jessica Malaty Rivera

Jessica Malaty Rivera

The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic

Shagun Gupta

University of Toronto

Divya Ramjee

American University (Washington, DC)

Ghinwa El Hayek

American University of Beirut

Nisrine El Amiri

SickKids Hospital - Child Health Evaluative Sciences Program

Angel Desai

International Society for Infectious Diseases

Maimuna S. Majumder

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

Date Written: June 29, 2020

Abstract

In the initial months of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made recommendations to clean and disinfect frequently-handled objects, triggering panic-buying of disinfectant products like Clorox® and Lysol® nationwide. During a White House press briefing on April 23, 2020, President Trump publicly implied that the White House Coronavirus Task Force should investigate injections of disinfectant as potential treatment for COVID-19. Across the United States, we evaluated Google Trends data to determine search interest from January 1, 2020 to May 10, 2020 regarding (1) the purchase and consumption of disinfectants and (2) poison control centers, which were included to examine correlated behavioral outcomes. Our work demonstrates a contemporaneous correlation between the President’s remarks and online search trends, with an over 3,000% overnight uptick in search interest for off-label use of disinfectants as well as increases in poison control cases. Public officials have the responsibility during public health emergencies to communicate issues that are evidence-based, and misleading information may adversely affect public knowledge and behavior.

Keywords: coronavirus, COVID-19, misinformation, public health, science communication

Suggested Citation

Rivera, Jessica and Gupta, Shagun and Ramjee, Divya and El Hayek, Ghinwa and El Amiri, Nisrine and Desai, Angel and Majumder, Maimuna S., Evaluating Interest in Off-Label Use of Disinfectants for COVID-19 with Google Trends (June 29, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3638653

Jessica Rivera (Contact Author)

The COVID Tracking Project at The Atlantic ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://https://covidtracking.com/

Shagun Gupta

University of Toronto ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8
Canada

Divya Ramjee

American University (Washington, DC) ( email )

4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

Ghinwa El Hayek

American University of Beirut ( email )

Beirut, 0236
Lebanon

Nisrine El Amiri

SickKids Hospital - Child Health Evaluative Sciences Program ( email )

Toronto, Ontario
Canada

Angel Desai

International Society for Infectious Diseases ( email )

Brookline, MA

Maimuna S. Majumder

Harvard University - Harvard Medical School

25 Shattuck St
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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