Date of this Version
Background: The most recent MERS outbreak has raised questions about prevention and symptoms since there is currently no vaccine to prevent MERS. People can help protect themselves from this illness by taking everyday preventive actions. To do so, it is helpful to get medical information on the Internet about this illness. Regarding the importance of ensuring the provision of accurate online information, the aim of this study was to assess the credibility of health websites about MERS by using HONcode tool.
Materials and methods: The term “MERS” was searched in Google, Yahoo, and Bing and the first three pages reported by each search engine were selected for evaluation. After excluding 26 websites, 64 unique websites were eligible for examination. Subsequently, the trustworthiness of the websites was then evaluated by using the HONcode of conducts quality rating tool.
Results: Our findings indicate that most of the retrieved websites were commercial and governmental (37.5%). Furthermore, only 7 out of 64 websites were officially HONcode certified. In general, the health websites regarding MERS were of poor credibility and while searching for MERS information people will encounter websites which include more commercial content rather than educational.
Conclusion: The internet is a place to educate individuals on their health condition and possible treatment options. Nevertheless, the internet cannot replace the role of health professionals in patient education. Regarding the poor credibility of MERS related websites, directing patients to reliable sources of online health information is important, mainly because search engine rank does not assure the trustworthiness of websites.