Health Misinformation: False stories from Ebola to Coronavirus

Nigeria has had a long-running battle with misinformation and disinformation. In times of health pandemics, misinformation, or false information shared unintentionally, becomes especially harmful. This was evident during the Ebola crisis in Nigeria; similar dynamics are coming to play with the current coronavirus [COVID-19] pandemic. The Centre for Democracy and Development has been tracking misinformation from when the Ebola crisis hit to the current day. The patterns that emerged have shown that Nigeria will not just have to battle COVID-19; but it will have to face a battle of misinformation, which can be similarly deadly. One such instance has materialized already: the cases of chloroquine poisoning in Lagos which stemmed from a Trump statement advocating the use of chloroquine to deal with COVID-19. From our engagement with misinformation during the Ebola crisis, we have gleaned that misinformation narratives are wide-ranging and subject to rapid change. During the Ebola crisis, narratives ranged from bathing in salty water to eating kola nuts as a treatment for Ebola. In the case of the novel coronavirus, as the situation has developed the misinformation narratives have also changed. In early February, when Nigeria had not recorded any confirmed cases, we saw stories such as: "African blood is immune to coronavirus", a former Nigerian president allegedly calling coronavirus a hoax, and certain food items being labeled treatments for coronavirus.