Mischief mongers spreading rumors on social media about the spread of the Ebola virus in the coastal Karnataka region of Mangalore have been threatened with criminal action by Health Minister U T Khader.
The health minister who is an elected representative from the coastal region and several top health officials in Karnataka have expressed concern over the spread of unsubstantiated reports on social media of the spread of the ‘Ebola’ virus. Khader has threatened suo-moto criminal cases against those causing panic and disrupting public life by spreading Ebola rumors. “This is not the first time that online platforms have been used to create fear, unrest and unnecessary apprehension among the public. We have decided to investigate and take action against persons spreading such false rumors,” Khader said.
One of the offending messages spread via mobile application WhatsApp over the past week claimed that a student from the National Institute of Technology Karnataka (NITK) in the coastal Dakshina Kannada district was affected by the Ebola virus and had succumbed to it. The WhatsApp message sent authorities in the district into a tizzy.
“It is true that a person identified as Sreejith who was pursuing an MTech degree at NITK expired last month but it was from a lung related ailment and not the Ebola virus. An Ethiopian student in the institute who is being rumored to have been infected with Ebola has not travelled to his native country for the past two years. All the messages on social media of the spread of the Ebola virus at the institute are baseless” the District Health Officer (DHO) Shiva Kumar said.
According to the district authorities, procedures have been put in place to monitor and check for the Ebola virus among people returning to Mangalore from West African countries where the virus has caused extensive damage.
“There is a standby team of doctors screening and quarantining passengers at the Mangalore International Airport (MIA). Passengers suspected of being affected by SARS, H1N1, Ebola or any other deadly viral disease are being tested and not a single case has tested positive,” the DHO said.
Meanwhile, the dean for student welfare at NITK Uday Kumar Yaragatti said that the college management was considering lodging a formal police complaint about the Ebola rumor at the institute.
“We have sent out a general alert through out the state on the deadly virus and if any case is reported it will be taken up on priority,” Dr Geetha Nyamagowder, Director for Health and Family Welfare in Karnataka, said.