Don't let coronavirus tip society into panic, say psychologists

Science behind spread of virus must be clear to avoid public discord

The looming arrival of a new disease as it spreads across international borders is, naturally, a source of some anxiety. But psychologists warn that the coronavirus outbreak has the ingredients to tip society into a state of panic if not carefully handled.

“If you look at the historical record you’ll find that when outbreaks of novel disease emerge they do trigger high levels of anxiety and uncertainty and dread,” said Monica Schoch-Spana, a senior scientist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “Fear is going to be up because it’s unfamiliar … and we don’t have the usual counter-measures like vaccines or medicines.”

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