The only thing seemingly more contagious than Covid-19 are the mistruths, myths and hearsay surrounding it.
Thanks to technology and social media, misinformation travels quicker than a sneeze these days. With confusion and chaos looming large, people are attempting to seek solace - and occasionally answers - within their closest communities. And in a time when many are self-isolating, that often means retreating to WhatsApp goups.
WhatApp - the shared messaging app, within which it's possible to create several different groups and conversations - has played a central role in the last month. With two billion users worldwide, it's safe to assume that information is disseminated there as much as anywhere else.
According to the Ipsos MRBI Social Messaging Quarterly, published in January, 79pc of adults here now have WhatsApp installed on one or more devices. Of those using it, three-quarters are doing so daily.
On the one hand, WhatsApp groups are a place where people are gleaning information and, in some cases, support.
Earlier this week, one group of neighbours in Cabra created their own WhatsApp group, according to a post on a local Facebook group's page.
"Are you interested in providing and receiving support and help from your neighbours if any of us catch the virus?" a notice read. "For example, if you are self-isolating and need groceries, medication, fuel etc, or anything else brought to your house, you can contact that WhatsApp group for support and help."
On the other, it's a place where rumours and notions soon become 'fact', without there being any real way to prove or challenge them. Unguarded, unpoliced and unfiltered, people can posit as they please. The unvarnished truth of it is, we love a rumour. In many cases, we're not likely to let the truth get in the way of a good story, even in circumstances as singularly awful as this.
In a group of school parents, for instance, there are usually dissenters, stirrers and outliers. That is the very nature of the collective. Add something as strange, scary and unfamiliar as coronavirus into the mix, and - without putting too fine a point on it - watch the sparks fly. It's a breeding ground for misinformation. Fear-mongering is impossible to control.
In other more close-knit groups, some friends of mine have shared memes and jokes in what is supposedly their 'safe space'. Sick of the virtue signalling and the handwashing instructions, some of them are shutting out the flow of information from established news outlets and sticking to memes. Others, overwhelmed by the information wave, are sticking to their pals for updates, and panicking in the process. The important messages, for better or worse, are lost on them.
Already, medics have had to stamp out online rumours that have gone viral before they can even put their white coats on. Initially, rumours flew that Covid-19 was a flu that had come from snakes. A little later on, bat soup was the probable culprit. Conspiracy theories about Covid-19 being an American bio-weapon designed to target China have also travelled quickly.
The spread of misinformation is part and parcel of social media, not least because a lie or rumour can travel quicker than other platforms can complete their fact-checking or moderation process.
In India, Prime Minister Narenda Modi was moved to publicly appeal to citizens to stay away from fake news on WhatsApp and Facebook. The rumours the government have had to publicly thwart are plentiful: garlic is an effective protector; pneumonia antibiotics help; heat kills the virus. So far so humorous, but buying into falsehoods can be dangerous.
Sifting the fake news (or theories) from the truth has become harder than it looks. But the tech companies appear to be on the case.
Last year, Pinterest announced that it had rejigged its search result so that vaccine misinformation is now harder to access. And in the wake of the coronavirus episode, Google is attempting to optimise links authored by reputable health sources when people search for information. And Facebook is working to vet or remove harmful or false coronavirus-related content.
Carl Woog, a spokesman for WhatsApp, has told the Washington Post that the company had been vigilant in trying to reduce the reach of misinformation, stressing it is working with governments and others "to respond to the immense challenge presented by the coronavirus".
"WhatsApp is an important tool for health workers to coordinate and we have engaged health ministries around the world to provide simple ways for citizens to receive accurate information about the virus," he said in a statement.
Yet in the attempt to plug the dam of rumours, social media appears very much on the backfoot.
A digital concierge for the Conrad hotel in Dublin spent at least some portion of Friday telling people it was not in fact shuttered because of a suspected case of coronavirus on the premises, the Washington Post reported. It's estimated that many of these rumours originate in online channels.
In Singapore, the government is attempting to use WhatsApp in a positive way. Its health ministry gives daily - and crucially, accurate - updates on the virus to citizens via WhatsApp. "Fake news is typically propagated through Whatsapp, so messaging with the same interface can help stem this flow," Sarah Espaldon, Operations Marketing Manager from Singapore's Open Government Products unit has noted.
It seems as effective a way of stemming widespread panic as any. Once you keep away from those friend groups, mind.