False claims of an Ebola outbreak in Burning Man, propagated by conspiracy theorists, sparked massive panic after severe flooding left 73,000 people stranded in the Nevada desert.
Festival-goers were hit by torrential rain this weekend during a ‘post-apocalyptic style’ event, with many describing being ‘trapped’ at the site. No deaths have been reported.
To add to the panic, people took to social media claiming there had been an outbreak of Ebola at the concert.
The disease – which causes a high fever, headache, diarrhea or vomiting – can be deadly and killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.
Accounts on X, formerly known as Twitter, have posted fake screenshots of alerts issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warning of a suspected outbreak.
People leave the beach near the site of Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert in northern Nevada following torrential rain.
A post on X triggered mass hysteria. It claimed to show a CDC advisory warning of an Ebola outbreak in Nevada.
The message read: “Ebola outbreak confirmed in Black Rock City, NV. It is recommended that all Burning Man attendees stay home until further notice. The current state of emergency is ongoing.
It has since been deleted and X has added community notes to any other posts stating that it was misinformation.
Widespread hysteria has now spread over the outbreak, with many people taking these false claims seriously.
One article even doctored a Forbes article, claiming the outbreak was true. X has since added a note stating that this is a false claim.
Another account said: “If the Ebola outbreak at the Burning Man Festival is confirmed, you can be sure it was a planned and calculated operation by our own government. »
Another user claimed to have tested positive for Ebola after attending the festival on Saturday.
There is no evidence that anyone at Burning Man contracted Ebola.
Burning Man is set on prehistoric Lake Lahontan, which is a dry lake bed – colloquially known as playa. The ground is made up of an alkaline dust, which normally causes people to cough with a “pulmonary playa”.
Rains have swamped the Nevada desert, turning dust to clay in recent days, meaning around 73,000 revelers are trapped until the landscape dries up.
An isolated death was confirmed by the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday and officials said it occurred “during this bout of rain,” but it’s unclear if it’s related to the flooding. and they gave few other details.
Martha Diaz of California walks along a muddy road in Burning Man, carrying bags of platform shoes.
An X account faked a Forbes article, claiming the outbreak was true. X has since added a note stating that this is a false claim.
“As this death is still under investigation, no further information is available at this time,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement late Saturday.
Campers saw their tents and structures destroyed by the driving rain, leaving many tired, wet and muddy over the weekend.
Ebola rumors have now stoked hysteria, all the more serious as the festival is so isolated and disconnected from medical assistance.
Despite the chaos, hedonistic crowds took advantage of the situation by organizing slides and other typical Burning Man activities.
Thousands of Burning Man attendees trudged through sloppy mud on Saturday – many barefoot or carrying plastic bags on their feet – as storm-induced flooding swept through the Nevada desert.
About six inches of rain reportedly fell Friday at the festival site, located about 110 miles north of Reno, the Reno National Weather Service said.
To make matters worse, revelers are suffering from hypothermia after unprecedented storms swept away the festival.
Organizers urged festival-goers already there to “save food, water and fuel, and take shelter in a warm, safe space.”
WHAT IS EBOLA AND WHAT IS IT DEADLY?
Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, has killed at least 11,000 people worldwide after decimating West Africa and has spread rapidly within two years.
This pandemic was officially declared over in January 2016, when the WHO announced that Liberia was Ebola-free.
The country, rocked by two consecutive civil wars that ended in 2003, has been hardest hit by the fever, with 40 percent of deaths occurring there.
Sierra Leone has reported the highest number of Ebola cases, with most of those infected being residents of the country.
WHERE DID IT START?
An analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the outbreak began in Guinea, a country neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.
A team of international researchers have been able to trace the pandemic to a two-year-old boy in Meliandou, about 650 km from the capital, Conakry.
Emile Ouamouno, better known as Patient Zero, may have contracted the deadly virus while playing with bats in a hollow tree, a study suggests.
Health workers tend to an Ebola patient held in an isolation tent in the Democratic Republic of Congo in July 2019.
Figures show nearly 29,000 people have been infected with Ebola, meaning the virus has killed around 40% of those affected.
Cases and deaths have also been reported in Nigeria, Mali and the United States, but on a much smaller scale, with 15 deaths in the three countries.
Guinean health authorities reported a mysterious virus in the southeastern regions of the country before the WHO confirmed it was Ebola.
Ebola was first identified by scientists in 1976, but the most recent outbreak has eclipsed all other recorded outbreaks in history, figures show.
HOW DID HUMANS GET THE VIRUS?
Scientists believe Ebola is most commonly transmitted to humans by fruit bats, but antelopes, porcupines, gorillas and chimpanzees could also be responsible.
It can be transmitted between humans through the blood, secretions and other bodily fluids of infected people – and surfaces.
IS THERE A TREATMENT?
The WHO warns there is “no proven treatment” for Ebola – but dozens of drugs and vaccines are being tested in the event of an equally devastating outbreak.
There is hope, however, the US FDA approved the Ervebo Ebola vaccine in December 2019.