Misinformation About Cholera Led To Deadly Ferry Incident

(NewsSpace.com) – Third-world countries often suffer from pandemics due to a lack of adequate healthcare. When there’s an outbreak, it’s not uncommon for hundreds or even thousands of lives to be lost. However, misinformation can be just as dangerous, as a recent event proved.

Misinformation Caused Tragedy

On Sunday, April 7, an overcrowded boat sank off Mozambique’s coast, killing nearly 100 people. The vessel was reportedly carrying 130 people, which is well more than its capacity. Many of those onboard were trying to escape a cholera outbreak, but it turns out they were just misinformed.

Nampula Province Secretary of State Jaime Neto spoke on national television, saying the boat was headed to the Island of Mozambique from Lunga. Rumors surrounding cholera had spread far and wide, leading some to flee the mainland to escape potential infection. Images of the boat showed what seemed to be a small fishing vessel, which wasn’t equipped to handle the number of people onboard at the time of its sinking. According to The Guardian, it wasn’t licensed to transport people.

Of the 11 authorities rescued as of the time of writing, at least three bodies were those of children. Kids are considered among those still missing, as well.

Cholera Outbreak

According to the CDC, cholera, also known as blue death, occurs when the intestine becomes infected with “toxigenic bacterium Vibrio cholerae serogroup O1 or O139.” It causes dehydration and diarrhea, though rarely it can also result in seizures and shock. The illness spreads through contaminated water and food and is fatal if not treated quickly.

In the southern African country of Mozambique, there have been more than 15,000 cases of cholera since October. Of those, 32 have died, according to available data from the government. While Nampula province has been one of the most drastically affected areas, consisting of at least a third of all reported cases, Doctors Without Borders head of mission St├ęphane Foulon said no recent infections had been reported in the region. Yet, he noted, “people are quite afraid of cholera.”

Rumors and conspiracy theories aren’t just causing people to flee. In January, disinformation spread rampant, which resulted in significant damage in the province of Cabo Delgado. At least 50 homes were destroyed, and three community leaders were murdered.

The infection has spread to nearby countries, Malawi and Zimbabwe, as well, and authorities are struggling to contain the outbreak. In November, UNICEF and WHO issued a joint call for urgent action to help the people in those countries, noting the seriousness of the situation.

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