Looking forward to the future of journalism

Fact-checking a viral e-mail about swine flu

Dr. Gitterle
Dr. Gitterle
Glenda Wolin, who edits a pair of medical writers for the San Antonio Express-News, wrote a useful blog post debunking a viral e-mail about the swine flu that originated in New Braunfels, Texas, which is in our backyard.

Wolin wrote:

With something as unknown and frightening as swine flu, many people send e-mails and post blogs that can “go viral,” and it’s hard to separate fact from fiction, clarity from confusion.

Case in point: an e-mail by Dr. Marcus Gitterle, an emergency room physician in New Braunfels, that has been circulating since Thursday and makes several statements that disagree with what has been said by most medical authorities.

Gitterle has since said on his Web site that it was intended for a few close friends and relatives, and “had I been writing for a wider audience, I would have provided a lot more perspective, to prevent misunderstandings, such as the incorrect notion that I felt anyone (officially or in the media) was intentionally obfuscating things.”

Also, according to Gitterle’s Web site, some versions of the e-mail contained additions and modifications that he did not write.

Regardless of his intent, the e-mail did spread like wildfire, so here is an attempt to explain some of the claims in it. …

Wolin then goes point-by-point through the e-mail, checking each claim.

Related: Want to fact check a dubious claim? Contact an investigative reporter

The mainstream media has its faults, but it does this kind of work a lot — checking the claims of politicians, corporations, and, when it’s called for, messages from a little-known emergency-room doctor.