Medical and health experts have continued to dismiss claims that bathing with and drinking salt water would cure or prevent contracting Ebola virus.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that speculations via GSM text messages spread across the country on Thursday night through the early hours of Friday (Aug. 8) promoting the use of salt with hot water as a preventive and curative measure against the dreaded disease.
The information heightened citizens, including elites, apprehension and anxiety over the spread of the scourge.
Hundreds of thousands of people across Nigeria got this message which led many to bathe with salt water and ingest copious quantities of same all in a bid to fortify themselves against the dreaded killer disease ravaging countries along the coast of West Africa including Nigeria, the largest of them.
By the end of the next day (Aug 9th), there were already reports of two people dead and at least 20 others in critical condition as a result of excessive consumption of salt and salty water.
Mr Matins Igoh, a resident of Karu, a suburb of Abuja, said that he received several messages from relations and friends on the issue, but disregarded such information.
“I was inundated with messages from my friends and relatives in the early of today advising me to bath with salt water I did not do that.
“I am aware that salt can kill some germs but Ebola is different. I advised people to be more circumspect about information they receive,’’ he said.
However, Mrs Fatima Ajayi, a resident of Lugbe, FCT, said that she had the information and complied with the directive.
“I received so many phone calls on the issue and I actually took my bath with water mixed with salt.
“Though I do not know the source of the information, the fear of Ebola is the beginning of wisdom,’’ she said.
Malam Issah Bako, a food stuff seller in Kuban, said that the information led to an increase in the sale of salt in his shop.
“I got the information late last night when people started trooping into my shop asking to buy salt and I also complied with the advice,’’ he said.
Salt and Water is Not a Cure for Ebola – Experts Warn
Medical experts have confirmed that the claim was both false and dangerous to individual health. An Abuja-based medical doctor, Dr Adedayo Shonibare, on Friday said that the claim had no scientific proof that salt water could destroy Ebola virus.
Shonibare, who is a Senior Registrar, Clinical Microbiology at the National Hospital, Abuja, told NAN that though salt was a disinfectant, it was yet to be clinically proven that it works against Ebola.
He advised Nigerians to ignore the rumour, saying: “The message about the efficacy of salt and water against Ebola came from an unknown source and I urge people to disregard it.
“Ebola is a strong and dangerous virus whose vaccine is still being tried and tested in laboratories.
“Salt is only used to treat diseases like diarrhoea and bacterial infections in open wounds.’’
Besides, the expert advised citizens to be more cautious in relating with sick people whose causes of illnesses had not been identified.
“We are not encouraging people not to show concern for sick people, but they should be more cautious,” Shonibare advised.
Dangers of Excessive Salt in the Body
On his part,Dr Kunle Otuneye, a Paediatrician at the National Hospital Abuja, advised parents to ignore the rumour of bathing and giving their children salted warm water to prevent Ebola.
Otuneye told NAN in Abuja that drinking salted water could lead to dehydration.
Otuneye also explained that bathing and drinking salted water has not been proven to prevent the Ebola virus diseases, saying Nigerians should be careful of wrong information.
“Some adults are already giving their children salted water which is dangerous because they are doing more harm than good.
“Drinking salted water for too long by adults can lead to hypertension.
“There is no proof that salt can cure the diseases, the best thing people can do is to continue to wash their hands and use sanitisers.
“Nigerians should avoid physical contact with infected persons or somebody with the symptoms of the virus,’’ he advised.
Unconfirmed reports on the internet suggest that the text message was a prank text message which had unfortunately gone viral, taking the false information along with it. Sadly this false information has led to the unwarranted loss of human lives – not from the Ebola Virus itself but from the false rumour that salt water can cure it.
But Now that we know the truth that salt water cannot cure or prevent the deadly virus, let us spread this message to let people know that it was a false news and lets continue to pray that the virus does not come near to us or any of our loved ones. May it never be your portion.