Saturday July 20, 2019

Polio History and Misinformation on Digital Journal

0
//
Photo: uanews.org

By Ernest Dempsey

Nothing divides the medical community and the public more on public health issues today than vaccination. Media is a major player in this divide and when it comes to polio vaccination, even citizen journalism sources take to policies of censorship of some information as well as allowing questionable information that fits the vaccine industry’s model of truth.

Take Digital Journal, for example – the popular Canadian citizen journalism site where I wrote hundreds of articles over the course of 5 years and was one of the top content producers for a few months. But last year when I published my article on the history of polio incidence, it was removed. The article titled “The millions of polio sufferers who never existed” was published on November 23, 2014 and remained published for two weeks before it was removed from the website. On December 8, 2014, I received the editorial staff’ email telling me:

“We have received several complaints about the article, and it’s been raised that your sources are not reliable and your qualifications are not related to relaying the efficacy of these vaccines.”

396px-Polio_vaccine_posterBy that time, the article had been liked and shared hundreds of times on social media and many news sites and blogs were linking to it. Its removal signified outright censorship of information that questions the superficially but intensively fed story of millions of polio patients prior to the advent of polio vaccines.

Upon writing to back to the editors, I asked what was their policy on the number of complaints they needed to receive to make information disputed and what were the qualifications of the editors in the field of public health. I did not receive a reply. The site provided no explanation or justification of the censorship that I deemed very unprofessional and prejudiced.

Though I put the same article on my own blog, questions remained about the neutrality of Digital Journal when it came to debatable issues. Was the site actively suppressing dissident voices on questions of polio incidence?

Recently, my doubts were verified when an article “Nigeria beating polio, Africa closer to eradicating disease” appeared on the site. Near the end of the story, the writer includes: “Back when the polio eradication initiative was founded, the disease was endemic in 125 countries and caused paralysis in nearly 1,000 children a day.”

This raised a frown from me since from my research on the topic as shared in my article censored by Digital Journal, I knew these stats were questionable. To my knowledge, there is no verifiable source that shows such large numbers of polio cases causing paralysis in people at any time in human history.

I decided to contact the writer of the article to inquire about the source of the information. The reply I got from the writer said her source was Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Upon my asking whether she looked up to verify the information, I received the reply that she didn’t fact-check the information and the foundation is “respected”, but that they could be wrong so I could always check with them myself.  Poliodrops

Next step, of course, was to contact the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to inquire where they had received their information on polio incidence. Their reply – “WHO and CDC are the sources for this data.” Having known the questions about the reliability of WHO and CDC as stakeholders in the vaccination business brought my doubts closer to the belief that the information is unreliable. I did write to the media cells of CDC and WHO with the same question about polio stats – and to date, I haven’t received a response!

But how far did Digital Journal go to verify the stats themselves? Were the qualifications of the writer of this article, claiming a thousand people paralyzed daily by polio prior to the vaccine’s introduction, enough to back up the information when the writer herself says that she didn’t do any fact-checking on the information?

The case of information censorship on Digital Journal regarding polio history is the tip of the iceberg that goes to unfathomable depths of media’s interests in certain industries, particularly the pharmaceutical industry. And while mainstream media is an active advocate of vaccination, mostly downplaying the case against the efficacy and safety of vaccines, citizen journalism sites like Digital Journal are also following the same route. Yet, alternative news sites and blogs as well as some citizen journalism sites that are independent in the real sense of the word provide hope for continued skepticism and critical analysis of information fed to the public.

About the Author

Ernest Dempsey is a writer, editor, blogger, and journalist based in Orlando, FL. He runs a popular blog Word Matters! at http://www.ernestdempsey.com/ and edits the journal and its blog Recovering the Self. Dempsey is a sceptic, vegetarian, and advocate for animal and human rights.

Next Story

Study: Intake of Dietary Supplements May do More Harm than Benefit

The doctor suggested that people should include more green vegetables in their diet

0
dietary supplements
According to the study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, supplements combining calcium and vitamin D may be linked to a slightly increased stroke risk. Pixabay

Researchers have found that intake of some vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements may not benefit the heart and, in some cases, may even prove to be injurious.

According to the study published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, supplements combining calcium and vitamin D may be linked to a slightly increased stroke risk. However, there was no evidence that calcium or vitamin D taken alone had any health risks or benefits.

“Our analysis carries a simple message that although there may be some evidence that a few interventions have an impact on death and cardiovascular health, the vast majority of multivitamins, minerals and different types of diets had no measurable effect on survival or cardiovascular disease risk reduction,” said study lead author Safi U. Khan, Assistant Professor at the West Virginia University.

For the study, the researchers used data from 277 randomised clinical trials that evaluated 16 vitamins or other supplements and eight diets for their association with mortality or heart conditions including coronary heart disease, stroke and heart attack.

dietary supplements
“People should focus on getting their nutrients from a heart-healthy diet, because the data increasingly show that the majority of healthy adults don’t need to take supplements,” Michos said. Wikimedia Commons

They included data gathered on 992,129 research participants worldwide. The analysis showed possible health benefits only from a low-salt diet, omega-3 fatty acid supplements and possibly folic acid supplements for some people.

“The panacea or magic bullet that people keep searching for in dietary supplements isn’t there,” said senior author of the study Erin Michos from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US.

“People should focus on getting their nutrients from a heart-healthy diet, because the data increasingly show that the majority of healthy adults don’t need to take supplements,” Michos said.

According to Abhishek Singh, Consultant Cardiologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad, dietary supplements do not have a measurably positive impact on cardiac health.

dietary supplements
The doctor suggested that people should include more green vegetables in their diet. Pixabay

“It’s more important to follow a healthy dietary regimen and avoid foods that are bad for the heart. Trans fatty acids are harmful and have to be curtailed. Refined sugars and simple carbohydrates are to be kept at a minimum,” Singh told IANS.

The doctor suggested that people should include more green vegetables in their diet. They are rich in vitamin K and dietary nitrates, which help protect the arteries and reduce blood pressure, he said.

ALSO READ: Fatal Drug Overdoses Decline in US; First Drop in Two Decades

“Studies like this raise concerns about harm from calcium and Vitamin D supplement use. As far as Vitamin D supplements (without calcium) are concerned, there has been no evidence on whether it has any impact on cardiovascular disease risk reduction,” Anupama Singh, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine at Vimhans Nayati Super Specialty Hospital in Delhi, told IANS.

“The quality of the evidence base of these various nutritional supplements and dietary interventions still needs to be evaluated to ascertain the effectiveness of the study,” she added. (IANS)