When the Ebola outbreak began last year in Africa, many questioned whether it was actually true. Outspoken officials and professors claimed the outbreak was a rumor and their initial comments had devastating effects.
"You saw many scenes in places like Liberia and Sierra Leone where angry mobs gathered stopping healthcare workers from accessing villages," said Julian Rademeyer, editor of Africa Check. "There were some fairly disturbing scenes were people ransacked quarantine facilities in Liberia and made off with contaminated bedding and items, and released patients from there."
Rademeyer works to dispel myths and promote truth and accuracy on issues on the African continent. He says the idea that the Ebola outbreak was not true last year was widespread, and those myths had very destructive consequences.
Addressing the disease was complicated by rumors of false cures and promises that emerged after the outbreak was confirmed. In Nigeria, a text message emerged saying that drinking large amounts of hot, salty water could prevent Ebola. "[T]hat had quite tragic consequences," Rademeyer says. "Roughly 20 people were hospitalized. Two people died as a result."
Rademeyer says it is difficult to quantify how much damage these rumors and false cures caused in the context of Ebola. But lessons have been gained from other false cures, like the rumors of HIV cures in South Africa. Rademeyer says it is vital that claims get addressed early.
Julian Rademeyer speaks tonight at The Sanford School at Duke University at 6 p.m.