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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 6-9

Knowledge, perception, and myths about COVID-19: A study from AIIMS, New Delhi


1 Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Medicine, Santosh Medical College, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India
3 Department of Hospital Administration, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Submission19-Dec-2020
Date of Decision20-Jan-2021
Date of Acceptance23-Jan-2021
Date of Web Publication31-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Arvind Kumar
Room 3094A, Office of Department of Medicine, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jphpc.jphpc_27_20

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  Abstract 


Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to adapt to new habits, and to embrace a new normal. The authors wanted to conduct a study to gauge the public perception regarding the ongoing pandemic. Aims and Objectives: A single center cross-sectional study was conducted among hospital employees and their dependents attending the COVID screening outpatient department at a tertiary care hospital in Northern India, to gauge the knowledge, perception, and prevalent myths among the same. Methodology: For a set of 14 questions, the participants had a mean (standard deviation) score of 6 (2.14). Only 50 participants had adequate knowledge in all the three sections, namely knowledge, perception, and myths. Results: Our observation has been that the particular group we studied were still unaware of basic information such as transmission, clinical features, use of masks, and other key aspects about the ongoing pandemic. Conclusion: Extensive information campaigns and behavioral changes are needed to bring up the level of knowledge, particularly in hospital employees because they make an important subgroup in the community about creating a sense of awareness about the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, knowledge, myths, perception


How to cite this article:
Chowdhury S, Sarda R, Kumar A, Singh AK, Vikas H, Ranjan P, Wig N. Knowledge, perception, and myths about COVID-19: A study from AIIMS, New Delhi. J Public Health Prim Care 2021;2:6-9

How to cite this URL:
Chowdhury S, Sarda R, Kumar A, Singh AK, Vikas H, Ranjan P, Wig N. Knowledge, perception, and myths about COVID-19: A study from AIIMS, New Delhi. J Public Health Prim Care [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 21];2:6-9. Available from: http://www.jphpc.com/text.asp?2021/2/1/6/312697




  Introduction Top


The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has infiltrated every sphere of our daily lives. It has already claimed more than 2 million lives globally, and more than 98 million people have been infected by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) CoV-2 till January 22, 2021.[1] Even though a few vaccines with variable efficacy are in pipeline, we cannot underplay the importance of preventive practices in mitigating the pandemic. The course that the pandemic will take will continue to depend on the behavior of the general public, which in turn is dependent on their knowledge and perception toward the pandemic. There has been an explosion of misinformation and misconceptions about COVID-19, fuelled to a large extent by the social media. The problem has reached epidemic proportions, and a term called “social media infodemic” has been used to describe this unique phenomenon.[2],[3] Therefore, behavior and knowledge of health-care workers (HCWs) regarding COVID-19, especially the preventive practices, play a major role in halting the spread of the infection by becoming an example in the community.

We, at a tertiary care center have a COVID-19 task force of the Institute and under their guidance a dedicated COVID-19 outpatient department (OPD) was established in March 2020, keeping in mind the nature of the pandemic which demands segregation from the rest of the hospital. Right from its inception, the team posted at the OPD was flooded with questions pertaining to the nature of the pandemic and various related queries. Therefore, this study was conducted, to gauge the general knowledge and perception of the patients, and to identify and address the myths, doubts, and concerns about the ongoing pandemic.


  Methodology Top


A single-center, cross-sectional study was conducted among the patients presenting to the COVID-19 clinic at a tertiary care hospital in New Delhi, India, to assess the perception, myths, and concerns about the pandemic among them. The study protocol was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee, and appropriate consent was taken from the participants before their enrolment.

Between July 23 to July 29, 2020, 356 patients were tested for SARS CoV-2 by the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction in the screening clinic. Two hundred and forty-nine (249) patients gave consent to participate in the study. A structured questionnaire, comprising of 14 questions, was given to them which included relevant demographic details and a set of questions regarding their knowledge and perception about COVID-19. Our questionnaire was prepared after extensively reviewing the recent studies published world over, on COVID-19, which also included the World Health Organization myth busters page.[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9]

There was also a group discussion which helped to identify the possible doubts, myths, and concerns among the lay public, regarding the pandemic. The health-care personnel posted at the clinic were involved, and the commonly asked questions by the patients were accumulated. The questionnaire was made, with most questions containing one correct answer, a few with multiple correct options, and others which assessed the perceptions of the general public regarding the ongoing pandemic.

It was then administered to the patients in the language they understand, and filled forms were then compiled, and the data collated.

Analysis

Data were recorded on a predesigned pro forma and entered in Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Analysis was done using SPSS (IBM Corp, Armonk, NY).


  Results Top


A total of 249 responses were recorded. The mean (standard deviation [SD]) age of the participants was 40 (16.1) years and predominantly male population (66.7%). The demographic characteristics of the participants are shown in [Table 1].
Table 1: Demographic characteristics of participants

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Twenty-seven percent of the respondents were HCWs. Forty-one percent of the participants answered the questionnaire in Hindi. The educational qualification of majority of the participants was graduate or postgraduate.

The response pattern of the questions is given in [Table 2].
Table 2: Responses to the items on the questionnaire

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Out of 14 questions, the participants had a mean (SD) score of 6 (2.14). The detailed questionnaire and corresponding data are provided in the appendix.

The questions were categorized into three broad headings, namely, ones seeking knowledge, gauging perception, and addressing myths regarding COVID-19.

A Venn diagram summarizing the answering patterns across the three broad headings has been provided below [Figure 1]. Combination of people who got at least 50% of knowledge, perception, and myth questions correct, were included. As depicted in the shaded area which indicates overlap between the three subsets, only 50 (20.08%) participants correctly answered at least 50% of questions pertaining to knowledge, perception, and myths. The other numbers quoted in the figure can be explained in a similar fashion.
Figure 1: Venn diagram showing overlap of myth, knowledge and perception questions. The numbers in the shaded areas represent the number of people who answered correctly (correct implies at least 50% or more) 154 (61.8%) answered questions on myths correctly, 169 (67.8%) on perceptions, and 94 (37.7%) on knowledge questions

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  Discussion Top


Our study shows that only 50 (20.08%) patients scored more than 50% of the questions correctly. This pandemic has forced the world to announce lockdown, both in developed as well as developing countries, and it has compelled people to adopt lifestyle-related behaviors in the form of preventive practices to contain the pandemic.[10],[11],[12] Despite surge of information on the social media, there is widespread misinformation about the daily practices and preventive strategies. The public perception and practices about the pandemic help to gauge the response, the expected outcome, and also guides about the existing information they have that will help in organizing education and training campaigns for the HCWs and general public about the disease. The correct knowledge about the usual modes of transmission, the symptoms, and most important, the methods of prevention of spread needs to be indelibly etched in the general public's mind, with no scope for misinterpretation. Keeping this in mind, it was imperative that a study is conducted to assess the baseline knowledge and perception. Eating out at restaurants has no bearing on getting infected by the SARS-nCoV-2.[13] However, 56% of participants thought it would be prudent not to eat out at restaurants for the next few weeks, to reduce the chance of acquiring infection. Despite being proved that there is no link between the virus and any malicious intent by any government,[14] 57% of participants thought the SARS-CoV-2 is a bioweapon developed by a government or a terrorist organisation. The world is fighting the pandemic together and it is imperative that these myths are overcome

The WHO has repeatedly advocated that masks are not required while exercising.[4] Social distancing is enough during the same. However, 48.7% of the people still believed that it is necessary to wear masks even while exercising. An overwhelming 80% were of the opinion that wearing masks for the long periods of time can cause adverse health effects. There is, however, no evidence to support the same.[15],[16] Subgroup analysis showed some interesting trends; questions seeking information, for example, masks causing adverse health effects for a long time, comorbidities resulting in severe COVID infection,[17],[18] were answered correctly by those with a higher educational qualification, as it may be expected. Interestingly, there seems to be no effect of education on the questions that focus regarding the myths. The health-care providers who took the survey fared better than the others in factual questions as well as questions asking about myths, but surprisingly, a greater proportion of them thought that masks were necessary during exercise, than the general population.

The study has several limitations. The population chosen was not representative of the general population, as there was a higher percentage of HCWs, owing to the demography of the population attending the OPD.

There was also room for guessing due to the nature of multiple-choice questions which may have given a falsely high proportion of correct answers. The percentage of people who correctly answered the questions with more than one option correct is outliers in the table, because we only analysed those percentage of responses for which all the correct options were marked.

Further studies about the public perception regarding the ongoing pandemic are required as few countries are experiencing second and third peak of cases. This will help in strengthening our preventive practices which is one of the pillars to mitigate the same. As more and more knowledge and data are constantly evolving the perception of people and HCWs also need to be updated.


  Conclusion Top


This study highlights the fact that even in an apex hospital where we would expect better insight about an ongoing pandemic, mostly the family members of the staves remain woefully ignorant of the various basic concepts about the disease. It would help to conduct periodic checks on public perception, in order to gauge their knowledge level and predicted responses.

Acknowledgment

The authors wish to thank the staff in the EHS (Employee Health Scheme) clinic for their contribution in this study. The Virology Laboratory at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, is funded and supported by the Department of Health Research/Indian Council of Medical Research as a Regional Viral Research Diagnostic Laboratory (R-VRDL) in their network.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Coronavirus Update (Live) Worldometer. Available from: https://www. worldometers.info/coronavirus. [Last accessed on 2021 Nov 22].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
The COVID-19 social media infodemic Scientific Reports. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73510-5. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 23].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Immunizing the Public against Misinformation. Available from: https:// www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/immunizing-the-public-against-misinformation. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 23].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Mythbusters. Available from: https://www.who.int/emergencies/ diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/myth-busters. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 23].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Geldsetzer P. Knowledge and perceptions of COVID-19 among the general public in the United States and the United Kingdom: a cross-sectional online survey. Annals of internal medicine. 2020 21;173:157-60.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Parikh PA, Shah BV, Phatak AG, Vadnerkar AC, Uttekar S, Thacker N, et al. COVID-19 pandemic: knowledge and perceptions of the public and healthcare professionals. Cureus. 2020;12;e8144.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Alsoghair M, Almazyad M, Alburaykan T, Alsultan A, Alnughaymishi A, Almazyad S, et al. Medical Students and COVID-19: Knowledge, Preventive Behaviors, and Risk Perception. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2021;18:842.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Chopra S, Ranjan P, Malhotra A, Sahu A, Dwivedi SN, Baitha U, et al. Development and validation of a questionnaire to evaluate the impact of COVID on lifestyle related behaviors: eating habits, activity and sleep behavior. Public health nutrition. 2020;2020:1-24.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Ranjan P, Bhattacharya A, Chakrawarty A, Das R, Kumar A, Pandey S, et al. Association between self-reported adherence to preventive practices and probability of turning COVID-19 positive: a cross-sectional analytical study. Cureus. 2020;12: e11815.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Chakrawarty A, Ranjan P, Thrinath A, Aggarwal E, Isaac JA, Berry P, et al. Assessment of preventive practices followed by general public during COVID-19 pandemic-a cross-sectional survey from India. Cureus. 2020;12:e11274.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Agarwal A, Ranjan P, Saraswat A, Kasi K, Bharadiya V, Vikram N, et al. Are health care workers following preventive practices in the COVID-19 pandemic properly?-a cross-sectional survey from India. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews. 2021;15:69-75.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Chopra S, Ranjan P, Singh V, Kumar S, Arora M, Hasan MS, et al. Impact of COVID-19 on lifestyle-related behaviours-a cross-sectional audit of responses from nine hundred and ninety-five participants from India. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews. 2020;14:2021-30.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
World Health Organization. COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses. Interim guidance, 7 April 2020.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Is COVID-19 a Biological Weapon? FAQ. Available from: https://www.covid19.nj.gov/faqs/coronavirus-information/about-the-virus/is-covid-19-a-biological-weapon. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 23].  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Face Masks for the Public during the Covid-19 Crisis BMJ. Available from: https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1435. [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 09].  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Rosner E. Adverse effects of prolonged mask use among health care professionals during COVID-19. J Infect Dis Epidemiol. 2020;6:130.  Back to cited text no. 16
    
17.
Omori R, Matsuyama R, Nakata Y. The age distribution of mortality from novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) suggests no large difference of susceptibility by age. Scientific reports. 2020 Oct 6;10(1):1-9.  Back to cited text no. 17
    
18.
Onder G, Rezza G, Brusaferro S. Case-fatality rate and characteristics of patients dying in relation to COVID-19 in Italy. Jama. 2020;323:1775-6.  Back to cited text no. 18
    


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    Tables

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