Monday, October 20, 2014

Well, look in the mirror

#BBCtrending: How Panic About Ebola Is Spreading Faster Than The Virus

Credit:  Reuters / James Akena
By Constanza Hola Chamy, Oct. 15, 2014,

Besides a small number of cases in the US and Spain, the Ebola outbreak remains confined to West Africa. But that hasn't stopped the spread of rumours and false alarms, spurred on by on social media.

On Sunday afternoon at one of Chile's busiest hospitals, an announcement blurted out over the loudspeakers. "Can I have your attention, please. We have a patient who is suspected to have Ebola. Please leave the room and go to another hospital," it said. Covering their mouths, the patients began to flee, but not before one recorded the announcement on a camera phone. She posted it to YouTube under the name "Possible Ebola case in Chile" and, of course, it went viral. In less than 24 hours, the video was seen more than 120,000 times.

From YouTube, the rumour spread to Twitter. The hashtag #EbolaenChile (Ebola in Chile) started trending soon after, and was used almost 20,0000 times over the following day. Mainstream media outlets who saw the tweets started reporting that there was an Ebola case. But the initial announcement in the hospital had said there was a "suspected" case, and it was never in fact confirmed. A few hours later, Chile's ministry of health revealed what had actually happened: the patient in question had travelled to Equatorial Guinea, where have been no confirmed cases of Ebola. But many in Chile were confusing it with Guinea, one of countries actually hit by the outbreak, which is thousands of miles away.

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