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Preventing Stigma during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

What is stigma?

Stigma occurs when people associate a risk with a specific people, place, or thing – like a minority population group – and there is no evidence that the risk is greater in that group than in the general population. Stigmatization is especially common in disease outbreaks.

Public health emergencies, such as the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), are stressful times for people and communities. Fear and anxiety about a disease can lead to social stigma toward people, places, or things. For example, stigma and discrimination can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality, even though not everyone in that population or from that region is specifically at risk for the disease. Stigma can also occur after a person has been released from COVID-19 quarantine even though they are not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others.

Why do we need to prevent stigma? 

Stigma hurts everyone by creating fear or anger towards other people. Stigmatized groups may be subjected to social avoidance or rejection, denials of healthcare, education, housing, or employment, and threats of violence. Stigma affects the emotional wellbeing and mental health of stigmatized groups and the communities they live in. Stopping stigma is important to making communities and community members resilient. 

How can we prevent stigma? 

Everyone can help stop stigma related to COVID-19 by knowing the facts and sharing them with others in your community. Speak up when you hear misinformation, and show compassion for those who are most closely impacted by the virus and stigma associated with it. Stay informed through reputable, trusted sites: 

It is important to remember that people of one race, nationality, or ethnicity - including those of Asian descent - are not at greater risk of spreading COVID-19 than other Americans. Viruses don’t discriminate, and neither should we. Click here for more information on preventing stigma, visit.

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