There has always been 'fake news', but what is new is the speed at which it travels and how far it reaches. Normally it can easily be ignored and generally, with some minor exceptions, it's harmless. However in these unprecedented times fake news thrives and can be very dangerous. People are scared, and when people are scared they search for any information they can, often without completely knowing where it actually came from.
It became common place in the last few years to stop trusting experts, believing they are not to be trusted and are part of a wider conspiracy. As I said before, generally this does not cause a great deal of harm however now this has real life consequences. Now more than ever we need to believe and trust the experts. If we do not it could have serious consequences.
The range of fake news at the moment is extraordinary. From potential sources of the virus to potential cures and preventatives. From "what is really happening in China" to what our own government is hiding from us. I hear it from friends and family. I hear it from colleagues. I hear it from celebrities. I see it all over social media. I see it on multiple news sites. It can sometimes be very difficult to know what is fact or fiction, mostly because there is so much of it.
I feel what makes some of the fake news recently so dangerous is that there is some truth behind it, yet it has been twisted and reinterpreted. An example is the recent controversy with ibuprofen. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), which have been shown in some studies to cause more harm than good in respiratory infections, dampening the body's immune response. It also known to cause side effects in people with asthma and certain heart conditions. Therefore in general clinical practice paracetamol is considered to be the first line treatment when it comes to treating a fever.
It started to circulate that people who had mild symptoms of coronavirus, took ibuprofen and were now in intensive care as a result. This was simply not true. There no strong evidence to support ibuprofen worsening symptoms in patients with coronavirus. To put it simply, more studies need to be conducted.
Another example is lemon juice. Another so called preventative against coronavirus advised by medical personnel. Again this is simply not true. Obviously, all fruit and vegetables are good for you and a well balanced diet is good for the immune system, but this will not stop you getting coronavirus. Nor will drinking warm water, a shot of bicarbonate of soda, or blowing hot air into your mouth with a hairdryer (which is frankly just dangerous).
Most of these stories have been shared on social media, with people claiming, my cousin's friend's brother-in-law who is a doctor in Taiwan says this. If it has not come from a reliable source, do not trust it. If you are getting information via a message on Whatsapp, Facebook or Instagram, do not trust it. If you are getting this information from your nan's best friend from bingo, do not trust it. As in the words of Compare the Meerkat, simples. We need to take it upon ourselves to fact check everything we share. If you see your friend or family member sharing something that may not be entirely accurate we need to politely highlight this to them. All of this will make the world of difference in the fight against misinformation.
I have a reliable resources page on this website that includes some links to trusted news sites, and also government approved pages. I have also included a list below of some news podcasts, TV programmes, and Youtube videos which I am listening to and watching to gain trustworthy information. Most are specifically coronavirus related, but some are general news. Nonetheless all of them are from trusted news sources.
It's important to be in the know and be aware of what it going on right now, but it is so vital that we all read and share only reliable and accurate resources. Fake news can be just as dangerous as the virus itself.
The Coronavirus Newscast: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/series/p05299nl
Coronavirus, The Latest: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/introducing-daily-coronavirus-podcast/
Today in Focus: https://www.theguardian.com/news/series/todayinfocus Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtN-goy9VOY