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Myths & misunderstandings

05 November 2014

Since news of the Ebola virus disease infecting US aid workers in West Africa made international headlines, a number of myths have sprung up over how it can be contracted and cured.

An article on daily web magazine Slate stated: "The Internet has been teeming with misinformation, advising people to stay away from keyboards and money.”
In response, Jane C. Hu writes: "Ebola is spread only through bodily fluids from an infected person, or from objects such as needles that have been in contact with infected bodily fluids. Ebola is not spread through air, food, water, or by touching money and keyboards.”

So Ebola is not a contagious disease like flu, even if it starts with flu-like symptoms. The disease has no known cure and no vaccine, and the main advice to people from health officials is to keep your environment clean and wash hands regularly. Carers should also wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks.

"Bathing with salt and warm water, drinking water with salt does NOT cure Ebola,” the World Health Organization (WHO) felt obliged to tweet recently following the circulation of misinformation.

The appearance of such panic-induced myths are not surprising considering the frightening facts: The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the world’s deadliest to date, and it has been declared an international health emergency by the WHO. 

That said, Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes on the BBC’s website: "While Ebola remains a genuine concern in West Africa, if it ever did make it to Europe or North America the chances of it spreading far are remote. 

"This is for two important reasons: first our disease surveillance is more stringent, and second Ebola kills or immobilises its host before they have much of a chance to spread it.”

To avoid picking up the wrong information visit the WHO’s website, which contains the latest news on Ebola, including how to reduce or stop the spread of the virus: www.who.int/ebola