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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  from BBC you should always ask if you want to 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 cure cancers or cure or Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV/AIDS) conditions that are not yet known to have cures. Many of these claims are unfounded and costly.

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? Of course, 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 typically  include the source of any medical news (scientific journal) on their 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, is there a reference to a scientific journal? If not, it means the drug has not yet met accepted standards for use. Anyone who uses such medicine does so at his or her own risk.

Have you verified the source of the information?

If a post is shared on WhatsApp or other platforms, always check for the source before you share or act on it. Some include a named source such as ‘’Professor Li ’’ to add some credibility. These are not  usually 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. 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. ’’

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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