During the summer of 2016, a Nigerian student sent out a prank text that ended up with two people dead and close to 20 more in the hospital, according to a report by ABC News.
Edwin Ikhuoria, who works for superstar singer Bono’s ONE campaign, claimed that sometimes at the beginning of August, a Nigerian student, sent out a prank text, claiming that the consumption of salt water will protect you from the Ebola virus.
“Once the word was out, it spread like wildfire,” Ikhuoria said.
The text quickly made the rounds in Nigeria; even the Minister of Health saw the message.
According to Ikhuoria, one of the messages read: “Please ensure that you and your family and all your neighbors bath with hot water and salt before daybreak today because of Ebola virus which is spreading through the air.”
By August 8, there were two dead and two in the hospital according to Vanguard News, all due to consuming too much salt water. The two-deceased suffered from high blood pressure, a health condition that is very sensitive to salt intake.
The government and ministry sprang into action quickly as soon as they became aware of the scam and began a campaign to educate the country about the facts of the Ebola virus. Within days, the fake texts disappeared.
Thomas Lee, co-founder of Symplur (a company that studies health information on social media), said,
“The power of social media to rapidly spread information, both accurate and inaccurate, is enormous, and nowhere is that more impactful than on topics related to our health.”
The Ebola virus is a viral hemorrhagic fever that has a very high death rate. It can only be spread by direct contact with infected body fluids such as vomit, blood, and stool. Symptoms can take anywhere from two days to three weeks to start which include a sore throat, fever, headache, diarrhea, and vomiting. As it progresses, your liver and kidneys fail and you tend to bleed both externally and internally. At least 70 percent of Nigerians have access to the internet, which gives them the benefit of transmitting information quickly.