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Namicit Nanshall: Salt Rumours & the Ebola Pandemic

Nammy

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Friday the 8th day of August 2014 was just like every other day for me. I stepped out to a bright and beautiful morning and began my journey to work. As I walked down the street, I noticed that people greeted each other, not with the  usual ‘Good morning’ but with the phrase ‘Happy survival’. Survival from what? I mused as I continued walking; was there an earthquake at night or a hurricane? Ah! My phone was off. I reached into my bag, dug out the phone and powered it on. A few steps later and I got to the shop of the charcoal seller, who was conversing with a woman and I caught the phrase ‘Happy Survival’ again. So I stopped and pretended to be receiving a call while I listened in on their conversation:
“Happy Survival”

“Thank you, my sister. Happy survival to you too, and thank you for calling me”

“It’s nothing now, what are neighbours for? It was actually my cousin from the village that called around 12:30 am to inform me. I was surprised to see her call sef because there is usually no network in our village. One would have to climb a rock in order to get network.”

“Hmm, thank God for her call oh! if not that thing for just clear us as we sleep”

“Na so my sister.”

I ended my fake call and hailed the nearest cab that promptly whisked me off to work. As soon as I got to the office, my BBM and WhatsApp alert tones went amok – competing for which one would alert me most (apparently my phone had picked up the signal of the office Wi Fi) their battle was interrupted by my phone’s ringtone; it was my mum:
“Ah ah, I have been calling you since last night now”

“Mummy, good morning”

“Morning, what happened to your line?”

“Erm… I guess it’s the network.” (I didn’t want to receive a lecture on the importance of always keeping my phone on, even at night)

“Ok, did you hear what happened last night?”

“No oh! What happened?”

And she went on to narrate her story to me:
“The sound of your father’s phone ringing woke me around 1:00 am. He received the call and all he kept saying was ok, ok, ok, the call finally ended and he resumed sleeping. I wanted to ask who was on the line, but I changed my mind. I just murmured to myself  ‘all these night callers would not let one enjoy sleeping.’
Barely ten minutes later my line rang, it was a colleague from work, she said: ‘EBOLA IS HERE, LIFE AND DIRECT!’ I jumped out of bed and screamed YEE! EBOLA! Your father got up shouting  ‘what is it? What is it?’

I replied:
‘EBOLA IS HERE’

‘where is it?’ he asked looking around.

I quickly rounded up the call and answered him, ‘is Ebola a human that you will see it?’

‘But you just said it is here ’

I went on to tell him what my colleague told me, that Ebola was in town and to prevent infection, we should drink salt water and also bathe with a little quantity of it.

You know your father now, he hissed and said ‘that was the same call I received, but all I did was to say ok and thank the person, wait for the Ebola first before drinking salt.’ With that, he continued sleeping.

I didn’t sleep again oh!, I was calling people and people were calling me to pass the life-saving information. When I got to work, ‘salt  bathing’ was the topic on everyone’s lips. One of my colleagues said that it was the sound of clanging buckets that woke her up, when she went out to find out what was happening she discovered that her neighbours were struggling to fetch water from the well and queue up to use the public bathroom before 5:00 am, apparently their own life-saving message came with a time frame.

“Hmm, mummy, I have just one question for you”

“Ask oh”

“Did you bathe with salt?”

“No oh!  why? But I gave Faith some to drink and put little in her bathing water – just little oh, you know she is a kid so it won’t affect her” (Faith is the little girl that lives with my parents)

“But you helped in spreading the false story”

“Abeg  leave me, anything to prevent Ebola”

“Anyway, we thank God that it was all a rumour and Ebola didn’t get to us.”

‘’Thank God oh! My sister.’’

“I am not your sister, I am your daughter”

“OK daughter, bye.”

And she hung up, I settled to read my messages and every single one of them was Ebola related both for or against the remedy.

Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans, transmitted from animals like fruit bats and monkeys.  It occurs when people come in contact with blood, secretions, and bodily fluids of infected animals. It spreads in the human population through human to human contact with broken skin, mucous membranes, blood secretions or other bodily fluids. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, internal and external bleeding. It has no proven cure yet; but its specific symptoms can be treated along with supportive care rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids.

Ebola found its way into Nigeria through the Liberian-American Diplomat, Patrick Sawyer and ever since then, campaigns have been carried out on TV, radio and through the use of billboards to enlighten the public on the disease and preventive measures to take. Maintaining good hygiene; washing hands with soap and clean water and using hand sanitizer; not eating bush meat; not touching infected persons without wearing protective gear, and things like that. Never was there a ‘drink and bathe with salt’ among the preventive measures.

Given the fact that Ebola was fast becoming an epidemic in Africa, it was only rational that we should have taken steps to be more enlightened about it. If we did then we would have found out that it is not airborne, hence it could not have been ‘coming to us. ’ We would also know that salt, while not being generally harmful cannot cure Ebola. We, as educated people (at least most of us,) would know that every drug, local drugs inclusive has a prescription one can’t just say drink and bathe with a drug and not specify the quantity to be taken.

Thankfully, Ebola virus disease did not get to most states in Nigeria but ‘Salt ignorance disease’ got to all the states in Nigeria and claimed far more lives than Ebola Virus disease- some confirmed cases are a two-week old baby and a 54-year-old hypertensive man.

This article is dedicated to all those who lost their lives due to Ebola virus disease, Salt Ignorance disease and all those who survived the Ebola virus disease, topmost on my list is Dr. Ada Igonoh {Read her story here if you missed i} Her story is very inspiring and  a good example of how being aware of what we are going through can help in saving our lives.

So let me ask you the question I asked my mum: did you drink and bathe with salt? Did you help in spreading the rumour?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime |  Horst Petzold

Namicit Nanshall is a Computer Scientist who is still trying to find her feet in the profession, she works as a Data Processing Officer in an establishment that has little or no Data to process. She loves reading and sleeping but unfortunately she is yet to grow fat. [email protected]

20 Comments

  1. Scared homosapien

    August 8, 2015 at 10:51 am

    So, are we going to start celebrating Ebola anniversaries now?
    I had to do a double check on the date of this article, because I thought I had opened BN 2014 archives. Forward ever!

  2. AlabamaUncut Blog

    August 8, 2015 at 11:14 am

    OMG! Your mother’s part cracked me up. Kudos!

  3. yellow sisi

    August 8, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Who is still talking about Ebola?Abeg! Writing is not a must

    • OG Green

      August 9, 2015 at 1:55 pm

      It is a good story, funny, interesting, informative and educative. I think you should read it over again and stop hating.

  4. OG Green

    August 8, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Yea, that salt thing fooled a lot of people for lack of knowledge, a friend called me that morning and said someone called him from his village too

  5. Martha

    August 8, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    hmmmmm, ‘salt water bathing’ is something I will always laugh about and will never forget. Majority of Sierra Leoneans including top government officials and even some members of my house hold did bath with salt water when they had that it was a prophecy from TD Joshua in Nigeria.
    Those who did so believed the information was correct as he is the only Nigerian Man-of-God who made donations to the government and people of Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola.
    Thank God is was so tired that night when I received calls and my mum who tried to wake me up knew that I was tired and will do so the following morning. Around 8: am when I woke hope to do so, I received calls from people and had a radio announcement that it was fake. Cloud you imagine this after massive publicity with mega phones, some radio announcement, Whatsapp and Facebook messages all over the country?
    Ebola is still here (sierra Leone) but much better as we are trying to start counting the WHO 42 days of infection free.

  6. Dr. N

    August 8, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I still wonder how d rumor started

  7. Ese

    August 8, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    I never got any text or call to use salt water to bathe or drink to cure Ebora so I was surprised the next morning when I was hearing Salt water cure. I remember joking then that my friends and family didn’t love me. If the salt water cure/prevention was true or there was a legit cure/prevention method for Ebola,that’s how none of them would have informed me

    • Ese

      August 8, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      *Ebola

    • happygogirl!

      August 9, 2015 at 12:50 am

      Awwwwww

  8. Tolu

    August 9, 2015 at 3:52 am

    This is 3:50am and I’m laughing so hard in my room because of this article, hope my neighbors are not thinking I’m running mad or something…….I love this article eh?

  9. sly

    August 9, 2015 at 5:10 am

    @yellow sisi ,ur comments apply to u. It’s not by force to write. Ebola is gone but that salt scare is something we will talk about for a long time,it’s now a funny part of Nigerian health history so if u cannot see the need to remember it or laugh over that funny but unfortunate incidence just shut up and appreciate a good story.

  10. DIAMOND

    August 9, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Very funny, especially mumsy part can’t stop laughing lols

  11. Blue

    August 10, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    Someone called me around 3am, after that I switched off my phone cos I had a long day ahead. A lot of my Colleagues did the salt Bath thing though

  12. Yabby

    August 10, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    My Room mate woke me up, and handed me a Cup containing water, that we were informed to drink it when I tasted it, I Couldn’t help but spit it out

  13. Yabby

    August 10, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I drank and bathed with salt oh! As your mum said, anything to prevent Ebola

  14. Yabby

    August 10, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    I drank and bathed with salt oh, as ur mum said, anything to prevent ebola

  15. Elele-Momo

    August 10, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    Funny, reminds me of that day. Dr N, I learnt it was a girl that jokingly sent a message to a friend about salt drinking and bathing to prevent Ebola, the friend took it serious and that was how it went round the whole country. I also learnt the girl who started it later apologised. From what Martha said the rumour even got to Sierra Leone though through another channel. Scared Homosaplen im sure you are just scared, if you have an open mind you will appreciate that story that brought out a good point (beware of rumours) Clear story, does not show any sign of celebrating Ebola. Like OG Green said read it over. Yellow sisi take the advice stop hating go write your own, its a free world

  16. Bobonkiti

    August 11, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    That salt rumour like the writer said claimed far more lives than Ebola did. Rumour is something to be very careful about. Whoever say the story is celebrating Ebola has a shallow mind and lacks understanding. Few days ago doctor Ada Igonoh posted a minute by minute account of her experience in the ‘Valley of death’ as she called it. Does that mean she was celebrating Ebola, far from it but that experience is something she will leave to remember so also drinking and bathing with salt like Sly said can never be removed from the medical ignorance in Nigeria. I drank little salt and bathed with salt water, I also helped spread the false rumour, but I learnt a great lesson- ‘Be quick to hear, but think before acting.

  17. Tosin

    October 8, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    In church that season, the reverend father (while educating people on ebola and soothing some of the fears of the congregation at the same time) joked that anyone who didn’t get a text about salt water , ok i forgot maybe he said they didn’t have any friends or something. Guess what, i didn’t get any dingle direct correspondence about salt water. do i have no friends? or do i just know rational people. and the less rational ones know i don’t have time for – what? – salt what? who?

    i was scared of ebola too, so i studied about it on wikipedia. (thanks to quite a bit of molecular bio and biochem training in my past, i could make sense of the technical stuff about the disease.) i explained to my family too when i saw them. my thoughts were that: the hospital workers were most at risk, not regular people going about, and that it was definitely going to spread because Nigerians – the health workers – can not follow strict instructions to the level needed to contain ebola. Nigeria proved me wrong. The disease did not spread. God loves Nigeria.

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