‘Clinical trials have shown that continual ingestion of health scare stories can lead to ill health,’ Dr Maggie Penfold told the Daily Mail yesterday. ‘We are recommending that the government sets guidelines for the safe level of health warnings that a person can safely consume as part of a balanced media diet.’
In tests, previously fit and healthy people were exposed to a series of medical stories ranging from the routine ‘Red wine is good/bad for you’ to the extreme ‘Going to the toilet in Yorkshire causes cancer’. After a twenty day period scientists found that the cumulative effect of exposure to health hysteria caused extreme stress and in some cases physical pain, although they have not ruled out the rather hard chairs in the medical centre as being a contributing factor.
The test results cause a fresh dilemma for Heath Secretary Andrew Lansley who will be forced to decide if he should suppress news of any future ‘flu epidemic in the interests of the nation’s health.
Government officials at Whitehall are known to have already commissioned a study to look in to the possibility of a vaccine against the ravages of excessive health alerts, but, whilst trying to appear upbeat, scientists have gently warned that an effective vaccine may be some way off.
‘The problem with developing a vaccine,’ commented top researcher, Dr Chris Barkway, ‘is that we are unable to test its effectiveness on animals as they cannot understand the health warning. OK, there are more intelligent creatures than laboratory rats to experiment on, dogs for instance, but generally they are better comprehending single words like ‘walkies’ or ‘bath’ rather than phrases such as ‘impending World Health Organisation level six bird flu pandemic.’
Meantime, Mr Lansley has been advised not to read the contents of his ministerial red box more than once a week ‘in the interests of health & safety’.