Fake images of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the communication of information at the beginning of the first Covid-19 pandemic


The first real images of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, were obtained between January 24 and March 5, 2020 using various electron microscopy techniques. However, since March 2020, it has been most common to see drawn, designed, or interpreted images in three dimensions, sometimes even representing different or directly invented viruses. This analysis studies a sample of images supposedly of SARS-CoV-2 that appeared at the beginning of this pandemic on the internet. Fake images or imaginary illustrations of the Covid-19 coronavirus predominate in all sources of information examined, except for those documented in encyclopedias or scientific articles. Rather than real images, the media have used more fake images of the coronavirus, often from repositories or paid stocks, usually freely available. When presenting SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus content, the use of fake, unrealistic, esthetically retouched illustrations is more common than actual or scientific photographs of the virus. The reference image used in the media and other information sources of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is a retouched three-dimensional, color design image for illustration rather than an actual image. The original, real images of the coronavirus did not have the expected informative presence in an emergency situation. The use of unrealistic images of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus seems to be a manifestation of a low-intensity infodemic. However, information professionals must use rigorous images to support their information, also in the case of the Covid-19.


Adhanom-Ghebreyesus, Tedros (2020). Munich security conference. Munich: World health organization. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/munich-security-conference

Andreu-Sánchez, Celia; Martín-Pascual, Miguel-Ángel (2014). “Representation of neuroscience in advertising”. In: Grabowski, Michael. Neuroscience and media: New understandings and representations. USA: Routledge, pp. 183-193. ISBN: 978 1 138811508 http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138811508/

Andreu-Sánchez, Celia; Martín-Pascual, Miguel-Ángel; Gruart, Agnès; Delgado-García, José-María (2017). “Eyeblink rate watching classical hollywood and post-classical MTV editing styles, in media and non-media professionals”. Scientific reports, v. 7, art. 43267. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep43267

Andreu-Sánchez, Celia; Martín-Pascual, Miguel-Ángel; Gruart, Agnès; Delgado-García, José-María (2018). “Chaotic and fast audiovisuals increase attentional scope but decrease conscious processing”. Neuroscience, v. 394, pp. 83-97. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.10.025

Barry, Ann-Marie (2009). “Perceptual aesthetics: Transcendent emotion, neurological image”. Visual communication quarterly, v. 13, n. 3, pp. 134-151. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1207/s15551407vcq1303_2

Casero-Ripollés, Andreu (2020). “Impact of Covid-19 on the media system. Communicative and democratic consequences of news consumption during the outbreak”. El profesional de la información, v. 29, n. 2, e290223. https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2020.mar.23

Casino, Gonzalo (2019). “Retos y perspectivas en el ecosistema de la información biomédica”. El profesional de la información, v. 28, n. 2, e280205. https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2019.mar.05

De-la-Serna, Juan-Moisés (2020). Aspectos psicológicos del Covid-19. La Rioja: Editorial Tektime. ISBN: 978 88 35404484 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340536973_Aspectos_Psicologicos_del_COVID-19

De-Wit, Emmie; Fisher, Elizabeth; Offic, Rocky Mountain Laboratories Visual Medical Arts (2020). “Novel coronavirus 2019”. NIAID Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/niaid/albums/72157712914621487

Depoux, Anneliese; Martin, Sam; Karafillakis, Emilie; Preet, Raman; Wilder-Smith, Annelies; Larson, Heidi (2020). “The pandemic of social media panic travels faster than the Covid-19 outbreak”. Journal of travel medicine, taaa031. https://doi.org/10.1093/jtm/taaa031

Eckert, Alissa; Higgins, Dan (2020). “Public health image libray (PHIL)”. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). https://phil.cdc.gov/details.aspx?pid=23312

Egerton, Ray F. (2016). Physical principles of electron microscopy. USA: Springer, ISBN: 978 0 387258000 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39877-8

European Broadcasting Union (2020a). Covid-19 PSM audience performance. Europe: EBU Media Intelligence Service. https://www.ebu.ch/publications/research/membersonly/report/covid-19-crisis-psm-audience-performance

European Broadcasting Union (2020b). Covid-19 crisis. Impact on digital media consumption. Europe: EBU Media Intelligence Service. https://www.ebu.ch/publications/research/membersonly/report/covid-19-crisis-the-impact-on-digital-media-consumption

Garrett, Laurie (2020). “The art of medicine Covid-19: the medium is the message”. The lancet, 11 March. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30600-0

Gorbalenya, Alexander E.; Baker, Susan C.; Baric, Ralph S.; De-Groot, Raoul J.; Drosten, Christian; Gulyaeva, Anastasia A.; Haagmans, Bart L.; Lauber, Chris; Leontovich, Andrey M.; Neuman, Benjamin W.; Penzar, Dmitry; Perlman, Stanley; Poon, Leo L. M.; Samborskiy, Dmitry; Sidorov, Igor A.; Sola, Isabel; Ziebuhr, John (2020). “Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus: The species and its viruses, a statement of the coronavirus study group”. bioRxiv, 11 February. https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.02.07.937862

Hua, Jinling; Shaw, Rajib (2020). “Corona virus (Covid-19) ‘infodemic’ and emerging issues through a data lens: The case of China”. International journal of environmental research and public health, v. 17, n. 7, 2309. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17072309

Keehner, Madeleine; Mayberry, Lisa; Fischer, Martin H. (2011). “Different clues from different views: The role of image format in public perceptions of neuroimaging results”. Psychonomic bulletin and review, v. 18, n. 2, pp. 422-428. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-010-0048-7

Krzywinski, Martin; Schein, Jacqueline E.; Birol, Inanc; Connors, Joseph; Gascoyne, Randy; Horsman, Doug; Jones, Steven J.; Marra, Marco A. (2009). “Circos: an information aesthetic for comparative genomics”. Genome research, v. 19, n. 604, pp. 1639-1645. https://doi.org/10.1101/gr.092759.109

Legido-Quigley, Helena; Mateos-García, José-Tomás; Regulez-Campos, Vanesa; Gea-Sánchez, Montserrat; Muntaner, Carles; McKee, Martin (2020). “The resilience of the Spanish health system against the Covid-19 pandemic”. The lancet public health, v. 2667, n. 20, pp. 19-20. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2468-2667(20)30060-8

Li, Cuilian; Chen, Li Jia; Chen, Xueyu; Zhang, Mingzhi; Pang, Chi-Pui; Chen, Haoyu (2020). “Retrospective analysis of the possibility of predicting the Covid-19 outbreak from internet searches and social media data, China, 2020”. Euro surveillance: Bulletin Europeen sur les maladies transmissibles = European communicable disease bulletin, v. 25, n. 10, pp. 1-5. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.10.2000199

Liu, Chuang; Yang, Yang; Gao, Yuanzhu; Shen, Chenguang; Ju, Bin; Liu, Congcong; Tang, Xian; Wei, Jinli; Ma, Xiaomin; Liu, Weilong; Xu, Shuman; Liu, Yingxia; Yuan, Jing; Wu, Jing; Liu, Zheng; Zhang, Zheng; Wang, Peiyi; Liu, Lei (2020). “Viral architecture of SARS-CoV-2 with post-fusion spike revealed by Cryo-EM”. bioRxiv, 5 March. https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.02.972927v1.abstract

Machin, David (2004). “Building the world’s visual language: The increasing global importance of image banks in corporate media”. Visual communication, v. 3, n. 3, pp. 316-336. https://doi.org/10.1177/1470357204045785

McCabe, David P.; Castel, Alan D. (2008). “Seeing is believing: the effect of brain images on judgments of scientific reasoning”. Cognition, v. 107, n. 1, pp. 343-352. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2007.07.017

National Microbiology Data Center (2020). “新型冠状病毒武汉株01 / C-Tan-nCov Wuhan strain 01”. Novel Coronavirus National Science and Technology Resource Service System. http://nmdc.cn/nCov/en

Nebenzahl, Israel D.; Jaffe, Eugene D.; Lampert, Shlomo I. (1997). “Towards a theory of country image effect on product evaluation”. Management international review, v. 37, n. 1, pp. 27-49.

Nielsen, Rasmus-Kleis; Fletcher, Richard; Newman, Nic; Brennen, J. Scott; Howard, Philip N. (2020). Navigating the ‘infodemic’: How people in six countries access and rate news and information about coronavirus. UK: The Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism y University of Oxford. ISBN: 978 1 907384745 https://bit.ly/2WvmMTR

Office of Communications (Ofcom) (2020). Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes. Results from week one of Ofcom’s online survey. UK: Ofcom. https://cutt.ly/EyWR0RG

Oppenheim, Charles (2020). “A copyright overview”. El profesional de la información, v. 29, n. 1, e290106. https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2020.ene.06

Peláez-Malagón, José-Enrique (1998). La ilustración gráfica y la caricatura en la prensa valenciana del siglo XIX. Tesis doctoral. Valencia: Universitat de València. http://roderic.uv.es/handle/10550/38547

Shimizu, Kazuki (2020). “2019-nCoV, fake news, and racism”. The lancet, v. 395, n. 10225, pp. 685-686. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30357-3

Smeesters, Dirk; Mandel, Naomi (2006). “Positive and negative media image effects on the self”. Journal of consumer research, v. 32, n. 4, pp. 576-582. https://doi.org/10.1086/500489

Snyder, Mark; DeBono, Kenneth G. (1985). “Appeals to image and claims about quality: understanding the psychology of advertising”. Journal of personality and social psychology, v. 49, n. 3, pp. 586-597. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.49.3.586

The lancet (2020). “Covid-19: fighting panic with information”. The lancet, v. 395, n. 10224, p. 537. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30379-2

Toffler, Alvin (1980). The third wave. New York: William Morrow. ISBN: 978 0 688035976

Torres-Salinas, Daniel (2020). “Ritmo de crecimiento diario de la producción científica sobre Covid-19. Análisis en bases de datos y repositorios en acceso abierto”. El profesional de la informacion, v. 29, n. 2, e290215. https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2020.mar.15

Wu, Aiping; Peng, Yousong; Huang, Baoying; Ding, Xiao; Wang, Xianyue; Niu, Peihua; Meng, Jing; Zhu, Zhaozhong; Zhang, Zheng; Wang, Jiangyuan; Sheng, Jie; Quan, Lijun; Xia, Zanxian; Tan, Wenjie; Cheng, Genhong; Jiang, Taijiao (2020a). “Genome composition and divergence of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) originating in China”. Cell host and microbe, v. 27, n. 3, pp. 325-328. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2020.02.001

Wu, Fan; Zhao, Su; Yu, Bin; Chen, Yan-Mei; Wang, Wen; Song, Zhi-Gang; Hu, Yi; Tao, Zhao-Wu; Tian, Jun-Hua; Pei, Yuan-Yuan; Yuan, Ming-Li; Zhang, Yu-Ling; Dai, Fa-Hui; Liu, Yi; Wang, Qi-Min; Zheng, Jiao-Jiao; Xu, Lin; Holmes, Edward C.; Zhang, Yong-Zhen (2020b). “A new coronavirus associated with human respiratory disease in China”. Nature, v. 579, n. 7798, pp. 265-269. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2008-3

Cómo citar
Andreu-Sánchez, C., & Martín-Pascual, M.- Ángel. (2020). Fake images of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the communication of information at the beginning of the first Covid-19 pandemic. Profesional De La Información, 29(3). https://doi.org/10.3145/epi.2020.may.09
Artículos de investigación Covid-19 / Covid-19 research articles


La descarga de datos todavía no está disponible.