Fake WhatsApp Forwards About Nipah Virus Creates Panic In Kerala, Govt Warns Legal Action
With the outbreak of Nipah virus in Kerala that resulted in the death of 12 people, fake messages and warnings have started flooding WhatsApp and other social media platforms.
One such message supposedly written by a Dr Arjun from the R.M.L Hospital, Delhi gives out the basic Wikipedia facts on Nipah. Another such WhatsApp forward claims that no one is allowed to enter Goa from Kerala and that ‘an immediate Quarantine is needed on the Goa borders.’ Further adding fuel to the fire, it claims that the virus can spread to Goa within next week.
Busting fake news
The first message talks about what is Nipah virus and how to prevent it. The answers are a mix of Wikipedia facts and generic steps to prevent an epidemic. What gives the message credibility is it is attributed to one Dr Arjun of R.M.L Hospital, Delhi.
BOOM got in touch with the Public Relations Officer of R.M.L Hospital, Smriti Tiwari and she denied their involvement in sharing any such public advisory message.
”I received the WhatsApp message myself and to my surprise, there is no Dr Arjun in the hospital. This message seems to be fake,” said Tiwari to BOOM
The second message that talks about the virus spreading to Goa is also fake. The Times of India reported that state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane said that no such message was received by the Goa government from the National Centre for Disease Control, New Delhi.
In a press release issued, Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behera took note of the messages circulating on social media platforms and said that such content has caused panic among the people. Apart from creating such false messages, even forwarding and circulating them will attract police investigation, the DGP said, reported The News Minute.
Kerala Health Minister KK Shaylaja had also asked people not to panic and believe what is said on social media. “Only believe what the official channels of the government are telling you,” she said.
There are also messages doing the rounds on social media that warns people from visiting Kerala and asks Keralite to not go out the state. “Such messages have caused panic among the people. No official agency has issued such an advisory,” the DGP said.
What is Nipah?
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Nipah is a virus that causes severe diseases in both animals and humans. The natural hosts of the virus are fruit bats. It was first detected in 1998 in Malaysia. During the outbreak in Malaysia, the hosts were pigs. In 2004, humans got infected with the virus in Bangladesh after consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats.
The symptoms of Nipah virus are similar to that of encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). The illness presents with 3-14 days of fever and headache, followed by drowsiness, disorientation and mental confusion. Doctors say the airborne transmission of the virus is not possible hence, those who come in contact with an infected person will catch the virus.