On August 8 2014, reports of deaths from salt water bath and ingestion to prevent Ebola aired in Nigeria. Can it still happen?
On August 8, 2014, Vanguard and other Nigerian newspapers reported that at least two persons were pronounced dead with 20 others hospitalised in various hospitals in Plateau State after consuming excessive quantity of salt and bitter kola to prevent Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) attack following a viral message on social media that it could prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
The deceased were said to be living with hypertension.
A resident who worships in the same church with one of the deceased, Atang Itse said she died “as a result of salt she took in the night when everyone was bathing and drinking salt water”.
However, the Permanent Secretary, State Ministry of Health, Dr. Elias Pede who is holding forte for the Commissioner, Dr. Fom Dakwak said “he was not aware of any dead” though he had earlier confirmed to other journalist that “one person died but full details were yet to be received.” A text message asking Nigerians to prevent Ebola attack by drinking salt water and bathing with it went viral in the country this week. Hot water, salt can’t cure Ebola FG warns.
In Abuja the Federal Government advised Nigerians to disregard the text message and postings on social media that hot water and salt may be used to prevent Ebola infection and cure infected persons. The Minister of Information, Mr Labaran Maku, said in a statement in Abuja that the people should disregard such rumours as cure had yet to be found for the disease.
The message reads: “Please ensure that you and your family and all your neighbours bath with hot water and salt before daybreak today because of Ebola virus which is spreading through the air.’’
Maku said the information being circulated to Nigerians about the cure for the disease was false and should not be taken seriously. “Nigerians have been urged to disregard rumours being circulated in the social media that bathing with hot water and salt cures the Ebola disease.
“There is no cure yet for the Ebola disease, what is being circulated is only a rumour that will only mislead Nigerians,’’ he said. The minister said Nigerians had already been informed on the necessary steps to adopt to avoid the spread of the virus and would be duly informed on additional measures when necessary. He urged the people to continue to maintain maximum environmental and personal hygiene to guard against contracting the virus. The federal and state governments have been on the alert on the control of a possible spread of the virus and the number of infected persons rises in Lagos. The government had also dismissed claims that bitter kola could be used to cure the disease or prevent people from contracting the disease.
Can it still happen?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. As long as there are Nigerians that believe and forward whatever broadcast messages they receive via BBM, Facebook, Twitter, or WhatsApp, the threat will continue to imminent.
There are several hoax messages in circulation that many Nigerians actually believe. If people can believe that something will happen to their account if they don’t forward a message to 12 persons, there will be those that will act on whatever advice they receive on how to prevent a particular disease.