Whew!

Ebola is not a “zombie disease,” China’s state-owned media affirms

August 15, 2014
August 15, 2014

“Expert: There is no evidence that coffee and onions cure Ebola.”

That’s the headline of a public service article on Xinhua (link in Chinese), China’s official news agency, that aims to dispel “internet rumors” about the virus that has killed more than 1,000 people in West Africa. Having thusly dispatched the rumor that a coffee-onion blend can cure the disease, Xinhua took on rumor number two: “Ebola leads to the appearance of the ‘living dead.'”

Images and lore of Ebola’s spread, and of the fever’s horrific consequences, have been shared across the world, and the Chinese internet in particular seems to have incubated some outlandish theories. Addressing these, Xinhua first debunks the notion that Ebola has made its way into China. (There was some concern that a man who traveled from Nigeria to Shanghai had contracted the disease, and a woman in Hong Kong tested negative after returning from Africa.)

Xinhua promised readers that, contrary to chatter on the internet, Ebola is not a “zombie disease.” But the agency’s attempt to allay readers’ fears of reanimation actually isn’t particularly reassuring.

“An Ebola sufferer may lose consciousness or faint, making him or her appear dead,” Xinhua explains. “But a few hours or even days later the patient may suddenly come to and enter an extremely violent state, tearing at and biting anything that moves, including people and animals.”

This suggestion is itself highly suspect. Violent episodes could conceivably happen as the result of an extreme hallucinogenic fever brought on by Ebola, but Quartz hasn’t been able to find any reports of the phenomenon described in Xinhua. Most of the violence related to the Ebola outbreak so far has been the work of uninfected locals who have attacked international health organizations they think are responsible for bringing the disease to them.

Xinhua’s article finally comforts readers by assuring them that Ebola is in fact extremely deadly. “The scariest thing about Ebola is the high death rate,” Xinhua concludes. “There have never been cases of Ebola sufferers becoming zombies and attacking people. That can only happen in movies.”

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