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Health Tip: How to spot Fake medical news

Knowing how to spot fake medial news is a very important skill you must cultivate. Why? Because several social media platforms including Facebook, twitter and WhatsApp  are flooded with health stories that often turn out to be fake.  Misleading health information can lead to loss of time, delay access to treatment and waste of resources. Sadly, this results in loss of lives too. For instance,  during the Ebola crisis in Nigeria, some people lost their lives to a fake medical health tip that drinking salts or bathing with salt protects an individual. Although, it started as a prank, it went viral on all social platforms and some health blogs too.

So how can you spot fake news?

Consider  5  key  questions   you should always ask if you want to spot fake medical news before deciding to act on any health related information.

Does the health solution really appear plausible?

For instance, some websites promote drugs that claim to melt large tumours or cure conditions (like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV))  that are not yet known to have cures. Many of these are unfounded. In Africa, some persons claim to have herbal medicines that ‘melt’ fibroids. Sadly, some clients end up with huge complicated fibroids instead.

Is it described as a ‘’secret’ ’wonder’’ or ‘’miracle’’ drug or therapy?

Why would doctors and health care staff hide drugs from patients that are desperately in need of a cure? Does it seem plausible that all doctors who have sworn to act in their patient’s best interest would intentionally withhold such valuable information and allow their clients to suffer needlessly? Of course not!  They are more likely to make this known if the drug or therapy is really effective.  Remember, ‘’if it is too good to be true…it probably is.’’

Has it been published in a scientific journal or reputable website?

All reputable websites would include the source of the medical news (scientific journal) on the site. Before a drug or medication becomes accepted, it goes through clinical trials which are highly regulated. The results are published in scientific journals   which are checked for accuracy by researchers working in similar fields.  So, if there is no reference to a scientific journal, it probably means the drug has not yet met accepted standards for use. Anyone who uses such remedy does so at his or her own risk. Furthermore, if the website does not refer to a specific scientific journal documenting the evidence, it suggests that no real evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the medicine exists.  Whoever takes such a medication may be taking a big risk.

Have you verified the source of the information?

If a post was shared on WhatsApp or other platforms, always check for the source before you share or act on it. Some include a source such as ‘’Professor Li ’’   which are not verifiable. Sometimes, persons credited with such statements come forward to deny making such claims later.

Have you done an online search of the story’s details?

You can use search engines like GOOGLE To spot a fake  medical news too. What you have to do is  add the keyword of the medical news item  to ‘’myth’’ or ‘’hoax’’. For example, enter the following details to a search engine: ‘’Ebola’’ AND ‘’salt’’ AND ‘’myth’’.  If it was claimed to be a statement by someone e.g. Dr James Watson, then type the name ‘’James Watson’’ AND condition ‘’Stroke’’ AND ‘’myth’’ or ‘’hoax. ’’

Because of the potential of fake news to disrupt lives, social media sites like Facebook have pledged to take them down. However, it is unlikely that fake  news will end soon, so always stay on guard and know how to spot fake medical news.

If you have any doubts about the contents of any medical information, please do not share on social platforms until you have verified it. That decision could save lives.

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