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Lincoln – COVID-19, also called the coronavirus, has and is likely to affect people from many countries, in many geographical locations. However, if you are not in an area where it is spreading and have not recently traveled to an area where it is spreading, your risk of infection is low – but the possibility of social stigma for certain groups is high.
It is understandable that you may feel anxious about the global outbreak. However, fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma toward Asian-Americans as well as those who may have a cough or sniffles caused by the common cold, flu, allergies, etc. This now may even extend to those who have recently traveled.
Stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate an infectious disease with a specific population, nationality, or other group, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease (for example, Chinese-Americans and other Asian-Americans living in the United States, or those who have just returned from a trip to Italy, Washington state or other areas with increasing COVID-19 cases).
People who have not recently been in an area of ongoing spread of COVID-19 or been in contact with a person who has a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 are not at greater risk of acquiring and spreading COVID-19 than other Americans.
“A global outbreak like this affects everyone, and an emotional response to its impact is normal," said Mikayla Johnson, disaster behavioral health coordinator and administrator for the Division of Behavioral Health at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). “But if people avoid or blame others, this can also affect those who are virus-free. Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem. We can fight stigma and help, not hurt, others by providing social support."
To aid in the anti-stigma effort:
There are simple things you can do to help keep yourself and others healthy.