Medical student leads effort to combat COVID-19 misinformation

Gurpal Virdi recognized a lack of COVID-19 education materials in Indian languages– so he created and translated them into nine different languages, with more to come.

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Gurpal Virdi

July 15, 2021

As COVID-19 infections increased rapidly in South Asia in April and May of 2021, Gurpal Virdi, a rising fourth-year medical student, recognized a need to create clear and accessible health education materials about COVID-19 in Indian languages. Virdi’s parents moved from Northern India to the United States before he was born, and he heard from family in India that misinformation and outdated treatment advice was creating confusion.

“There’s a significant degree of widespread public misinformation — even misguided government recommendations — regarding ivermectin and doxycycline, with no clinical evidence for their use in COVID-19 treatment or prevention,” Virdi said.

To help provide clarity, Virdi used the networking platform Clubhouse to connect with infectious disease specialists who were interested in developing health literature available in many languages spoken in India. He then collaborated with a Harvard infectious disease specialist to create a digital document that has the most current information about symptoms, mask use, testing, when to seek treatment and more.

With the help of medical translators, the document has been translated into nine languages —with more translations in the works. To date, it has reached more than 130,000 people worldwide.

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