Last week we reported on US Health Agencies’ intention to grant an exclusive license to a Minnesota company, to develop a vaccine for Ebola; one that is created by combining both the Ebola and rabies viruses (Read that report HERE). Of course we couldn’t help but draw comparisons between that and the “rage virus” in the movie 28 Days Later.
So when we started getting wind of the topic of “Ebola zombies” running rampant through the internet, and more specifically, Chinese social media, we had to do some further investigation. It turns out, of course, that the rumors have been based on irresponsible misinformation and ignorance borne out of fear and hysteria, but hysteria that forced the Chinese government to make a statement about the “living dead.”
Xinhua, China’s official news agency attempted to dispel these rumors with a report that appeared on Aug. 9th. (Note, link is in Chinese.)
From the actual report (translated):
Rumor: Ebola can cause “Living Dead” phenomenon[Internet rumors have spread about how] the Ebola virus will lead to “zombie disease,” or “living dead” phenomenon: a patient infected with the Ebola virus will be in a coma or fainting condition, because the clinical signs and death are very similar, so [people will] often think the patient has died. However, a few hours or a few days later, the patient [will] suddenly wake up and go into a very aggressive state, biting [everything], including humans and animals.
The report goes on to explain that medical personnel in Nigeria wanted people to know that these rumors are completely false, and that in fact people infected with the virus generally do not lose consciousness, but become very weak, and often die. They said that because the victims are generally so weak from blood loss, violent attacks are impossible. Ebola is scary, they continue, because of the high mortality rate of the infected, not because the infected will become zombies. “Such a thing could only happen in movies.”
The report also dispels other rumors, such as the emergence of Ebola in China, and the use of coffee mixed with raw onions to cure the disease.
What can this teach us?
Well, social media, by its very nature, is irresponsible (according to the actual definition of “irresponsible”). On social media, things can be said without repercussion, and retweeted ad infinitum without a single person taking the time to do any research. This is all especially true when we can hide behind the anonymity of the computer screen. Should a real apocalypse occur (undead or otherwise) it will be the ease at which information is disseminated that might ironically spell our downfall. After a while, who are we going to believe?