No coronavirus sign for hearing impaired; WHO direction sought urgently

Calling the attention of WHO, the researchers sought the creation of an international signing norm for the coronavirus and the disease it causes

With making crucial and verified information available about COVID-19 to dispelling misinformation about it, dissemination of information has become a crucial aspect in the fight against the disease. Most importantly, making information available to every section of society is vital.

However, in a correspondence to Nature, researchers point out that deaf communities may be at risk of losing out on key communications as no universal signs exist for the virus. "Accurate dissemination of this crucial information among deaf communities is a problem because no universal signing vocabulary exists for the virus," they wrote. Calling the attention of WHO, the authors sought the creation of an international signing norm for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the disease it causes.

Multiple signs being used

Over 15 different signs were currently in use for designating the coronavirus in nations that the pandemic has made its way into, the researchers said. In Brazil alone, over three signs were used. Stressing on the extent of the unfixed designation of words, they wrote: "Some of these signs are based on unscientific variants that might, for example, evoke fear of an animal's bite."

Sign language
Representational Picture Pixabay

Interestingly, the level of communication of information even in written form was unreliable, they pointed out. This is because of the varying levels of comprehension of Portuguese among different communities including deaf communities as it is their second language.

Emphasising on the potential of the risk that lack of uniform communication posed, they concluded: "Such haphazard communication is not acceptable. It stands to perpetuate misinformation and to foster misguided actions by the people affected — putting themselves and all of society at risk."

It is important to note that not all countries or regions across the world have a fixed or uniform sign language of the hearing and speech impaired. Over 140 sign languages exist across the world, with languages evolving among communities.

COVID-19 causes severe damage across the world

While the outbreak of the infection began in China, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused widespread loss of life and health across the world. With the reported near eradication of the disease in the country, the current number of cases stands at over 81,000 and the number of casualties is over 3,200.

Other than China, Italy is the worst-hit country in the world. As of now, the European nation has reported nearly 36,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths. In the Middle East, Iran is the worst-affected country with over 18,000 confirmed cases and nearly 1,300 deaths.

This article was first published on March 19, 2020
Related topics : Coronavirus