The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) on Thursday cautioned everyone to be wary of unsourced information or opinion masquerading as public health advice during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

ACEP urged the public to be circumspect of bold claims or instant cures touted on social media or circulating among friends. Instead, they said, the public should seek information supported by data and endorsed by leading health and medical expert entities, such as ACEP, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and others.

“A troubling number of purported experts are sharing false and dangerous information that runs counter to the public health and safety guidelines endorsed by ACEP and the nation’s leading medical and public health entities,” said Dr. William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of ACEP. “This kind of misinformation can not only be harmful to individuals, but it hinders our nation’s efforts to get the pandemic under control.”

Jaquis emphasized that there is currently no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, while researchers and scientists are continuously learning more about the virus and how to treat it, and their expert guidance is updated accordingly. Anyone can spread COVID-19, he added, even those who do not suspect they are infected. The CDC states that 40 percent of positive cases occur with people who show no symptoms (asymptomatic) but can still spread the virus. That does not mean the virus is “harmless,” Jaquis said. The long-term effects of carrying the virus are still being studied.

Meanwhile, cases are surging in most states and tests may be in short supply in some areas as demands on hospital beds and resources approach or exceed capacity.

“Whether your community is experiencing a surge or not, you can be assured that the emergency department is the best place to be if you think you are having a medical emergency. Emergency physicians are ready and able to care for you anytime and are specially trained to keep you safe even in the midst of a pandemic,” Jaquis said.

Information evolves and sound scientific reasoning can change as new information comes to light, he added, urging people that as they consult with their healthcare provider or local health authorities to look for information backed by data and supported by consensus. Heeding unsubstantiated advice opens people up to avoidable health risks, he added.

Without a cure, smart personal choices and safe behaviors are the best defense against spreading COVID-19 and overwhelming our health care system, Jaquis said.

“There are still many questions about COVID-19, but we know these three simple steps offer the best protection that we have until a vaccine is developed: cover your face, wash your hands frequently and practice social distancing,” said Jaquis.