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Galway researchers tackle coronavirus myths in new website

A group of health and medical researchers at NUIG have combined their expertise in a new website fact checking different myths circulating about the Coronavirus

On top of the virus itself making its way through Ireland and the world, another plague that we’ve had to deal with have been dubious or outright manipulative health claims about the coronavirus and Covid-19 circulating on social media.

The Health Research Board has funded the creation of iHealthFacts.ie to help the public quickly and easily check the reliability of health claims being circulated by social media.

Trials Methodology Research Network, Evidence Synthesis Ireland and Cochrane Ireland, based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUIG, have come together to create this website, and give people access clear, evidence based information.

Elaine Finucane, HealthFacts.ie lead and Research Associate at the HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network at NUIG said that information that can’t be trusted can have dire effects in a public health crisis.

“Unreliable claims can lead to poorly informed choices, under- or over-use of things we do to improve or maintain health.”

“Unreliable claims can also lead to unnecessary waste and human suffering,” she added, saying that it’s hoped this website will prompt people to think critically about health claims they see online.

Members of the public can submit any health claims they are curious about to the iHealthFacts website, and a team of researchers at NUIG gather and examine evidence either supporting or refuting the claim.

Before it goes live, their response is reviewed by a team of Evidence Advisors from NUI Galway, UCD, TCD, UL, UCC and RCSI and by a panel of Public and Patient Advisors to ensure its accuracy.

The result is a short, easy to read, clearly presented response to help the public make informed decisions about their own health.

But it’s important to keep in mind that this website is for informational purposes only, and is in no way a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

The core team intends to update the website regularly to keep up with the different claims circulating about the novel coronavirus, and the disease it causes, Covid-19.

Some of the topics which have already been addressed on IHealthFacts include: Can spraying alcohol or chlorine on your body prevent you becoming infected with the new coronavirus? Does taking ibuprofen worsen the symptoms of COVID-19? and Does the use of petrol pumps spread COVID-19 rapidly?

“Now more than ever people need access to open, trustworthy, information and iHealthFacts offers the public a simple way to take control and fact check health claims,” said Dr Tom Conway of NUIG, project co-lead.

Briain Kelly
Email: news@galwaydaily.com
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