Fear of parasites has caused thousands of people to post pictures of their own feces in a private group on Facebook and then look for a number of drugs suggested by other members of the group that medical experts consider to be unsubstantiated by research and potentially dangerous.
Publications are another example of the great variety of health misinformation that can be found on Facebook, and add to the pressure on the social media giant to bring that misinformation back if it does not ban it directly.
The posts in these groups follow a clear pattern: A member writes about perceived health or symptoms along with each regimen they undergo. Then, in the first comment, the member usually follows a picture of what they claim to be their rifle.
All humans are convinced that their bodies are riddled with parasites.
“What is it? Feels like a slug. It is at least 2 inches long and is the only one that came out. Photo in the comments, "says a recent post on Humaworm's parasite and natural health group, which has 33,000 members on Facebook.
Humaworm is just one of many Facebook groups people gather for to share and diagnose what they claim to be parasitic infections.
A private, 1
Parasites that are organisms who live on or in a host who also serves as Ego's nutritional source is legitimate health care and can cause illnesses such as malaria, toxoplasmosis and Chagas disease, but claims by Humaworm and other parasite groups – that 90 percent of Americans host parasites that make them seriously ill – are drastic According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
and while these groups have been under pressure from the authorities, including the recent assault by federal business agents behind the Humaworm group, they have so far been successful us in preventing the broader counteraction of Facebook to health misinformation in part by adapting to the new rules, including the use of coded phrasing. as "fairy tales" in an attempt to portray their activities as works of fiction.
However, the members of the group clearly take the topic seriously. Many of the publications come from parents seeking ways to treat what they believe are parasites in their children.
"What is a Safe Way to Start a 5-Year-Old Child for Parasite Treatment / Cleansing?" One mother posted a week.
Over the past year, health advocates and lawmakers have been increasingly critical of social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, for hosting and recommending content that disseminates health misinformation.
While Facebook has taken steps to reduce anti-vaccination pages and provide warnings to sites and groups that push vaccine misinformation, they have not banned accounts that promote such content. This summer, Facebook said it would reduce the reach of posts with "exaggerated or sensational health claims," but declined to act on groups promoting potentially dangerous drugs.
Facebook did not respond to questions related to the Humaworm community, but groups promoting similar products with dubious safety were removed for violating Facebook's "non-medical drugs" policy, which prohibits content that promotes drug sales or describes personal drug use beyond recovery. analyze the fast-changing world of media and technology to your inbox.
But the ghost of the ban hangs over the groups, indicating that Facebook's violent process has forced these groups to change their ways of working.
A search warrant last month at the Humaworm headquarters in Caroleton, Mississippi, a business from which Reba Bailey, 48, made and sold homemade pill for a slave she claimed could clean the body of parasites and cure almost every disease – from headache to cancer. Agents seize equipment, herbs and computers, according to Bailey's social media posts.
The raid causes Bailey to make the Humaworm group private.
"ANNOUNCEMENT: HUMAWORM IS CLOSED TO TODAY," Bailey then published it to a community group. "I can't say why. I WILL BE THIS GROUP.
Following the October raid, Bailey changed the name of her Facebook group from the Humaworm Parasite Removal & Natural Health Parasite and Natural Health Group, and she and members of her group began referring to specific herbal recipes as "fairy tales," to avoid what they fear is an impending ban on Facebook, according to posts viewed by NBC News.
"Is there a fabulous recipe for Lyme gold porridge at the age of five or a breastfeeding mother? "Asked one member after Bailey dropped prescriptions for several other herbal remedies.
Many of the publications in the Bailey group are not from people who seek advice for themselves, but from parents who seek ways to treat what they believe to be parasites in their children.
"Omg my 5 month old just passed about 50 worms 🐛 how a baby that a young one can pass so much and have so much!" Another posted in Humaworm's group, along with a photo of a dirty diaper.
Many comments suggest that the solutions offered by Humaworm are intended to "detoxify the baby while other responses advise the mother to stop feeding her baby bananas."
One of them replied, "It's just a baby kitten."
Bailey did not respond to requests for comments sent via email and message to FB, and the message left on the company telephone number was not returned. Bailey's GoFundMe campaign for living expenses raised $ 3,500, and she quickly wrote a recipe book for her products that she retails for $ 39.99.
The FDA declined to comment on the raid "as a matter of policy," according to a spokesman.
"Seek Medical Care"
The Internet provides a wealth of information and connectivity for patients and their physicians. But for people who are too anxious, isolated or hopeless about symptoms that doctors have failed to name or treat, online diagnoses and participation in social media groups such as those dedicated to parasite clearing on Facebook can increase their fears, a phenomenon known as cyberchondria.
The mistaken belief that one's body is overpowered by worms also has a name: delusional parasitosis.
Posts in Facebook's parasite groups document the effects of many of the proposed drugs. Humaworm and other non-FDA-approved "miracle" healing parasites have caused common pain, rashes, headaches, fever, heart irregularities and flu, according to publications seeking confirmation that these are symptoms of "parasite dying". They claim that the negative effects are actually a positive sign caused by dying parasites.
"These types of treatments are things we are used to seeing before medical knowledge or research," says Jennifer Griegel, an assistant and social media researcher at SI Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University. "The news environment is getting so bad that we are diverting back to the Middle Ages."
"People read less about medicine than journalists or health professionals," Griegel said. "He is no longer even Dr. Google. People are becoming more reliant on social media, and Facebook will reap the benefits. ”
The group's move to hide also creates challenges for those trying to find and address health misinformation online.
"Groups can become private or hidden at any time, making it difficult for journalists and researchers to show what's happening on Facebook," Griegel said. "And that is strategic on Facebook."
Side effects aside, using a Facebook photo to diagnose a parasitic infection is unreliable, said Dr. Benjamin Levy, chief of Gastroenterology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago.
"The appearance of feces is useful when trying to determine the hydration status," Levy said. But people worried about parasites "must go to a doctor and have a stool test performed where a laboratory can examine the sample under a microscope."
Levi offers a warning to promote enemas, supplements and other home remedies.
"Depending on the article or substance used, you can cause irritation or abrasion and can throw away skin or mucous membranes and sharpen hemorrhoids," says Levi. "In 2019, we have great medicines that have been researched and considered safe. My advice would be to seek medical help before you go online for solutions. “