Medical and health experts have dismissed claims that bathing with hot saltwater and drinking it would cure or prevent contracting Ebola virus.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that speculations via GSM text messages spread across the country on Thursday night through the early hours of Friday (Aug. 8) promoting the use of salt with hot water as a preventive and curative measure against the dreaded disease.
The information heightened citizens, including elites, apprehension and anxiety over the spread of the scourge.
Mr. Matins Igoh, a resident of Karu, a suburb of Abuja, said that he received several messages from relations and friends on the issue, but disregarded such information.
“I was inundated with messages from my friends and relatives in the early of today advising me to bath with salt water I did not do that.
“I am aware that salt can kill some germs but Ebola is different. I advised people to be more circumspect about information they receive,’’ he said.
However, Mrs Fatima Ajayi, a resident of Lugbe, FCT, said that she had the information and complied with the directive.
“I received so many phone calls on the issue and I actually took my bath with water mixed with salt.
“Though I do not know the source of the information, the fear of Ebola is the beginning of wisdom,’’ she said.
But in their separate reactions, the experts told NAN that the claim was not only false but dangerous to individual health.
An Abuja-based medical doctor, Dr Adedayo Shonibare, on Friday said that the claim had no scientific proof that saltwater could destroy Ebola virus.
Shonibare, who is a Senior Registrar, Clinical Microbiology at the National Hospital, Abuja, told NAN that though salt was a disinfectant, it was yet to be clinically proven that it works against Ebola.
He advised Nigerians to ignore the rumour, saying: “The message about the efficacy of salt and water against Ebola came from an unknown source and I urge people to disregard it.
“Ebola is a strong and dangerous virus whose vaccine is still being tried and tested in laboratories.
“Salt is only used to treat diseases like diarrhoea and bacterial infections in open wounds.’’
Besides, the expert advised citizens to be more cautious in relating with sick people whose causes of illnesses had not been identified.
“We are not encouraging people not to show concern for sick people, but they should be more cautious,” Shonibare advised.
On his part, Dr Kunle Otuneye, a Paediatrician at the National Hospital Abuja, advised parents to ignore the rumour of bathing and giving their children salted warm water to prevent Ebola.
Otuneye told NAN in Abuja that drinking salted water could lead to dehydration.
Otuneye also explained that bathing and drinking salted water has not been proven to prevent the Ebola virus diseases, saying Nigerians should be careful of wrong information.
“Some adults are already giving their children salted water which is dangerous because they are doing more harm than good.
“Drinking salted water for too long by adults can lead to hypertension.
“There is no proof that salt can cure the diseases, the best thing people can do is to continue to wash their hands and use sanitisers.
“Nigerians should avoid physical contact with infected persons or somebody with the symptoms of the virus,’’ he advised.
Similarly, Dr Jacob Nwachukwu, the President of Blood Pressure Control Foundation, said there was no scientific basis behind bathing and drinking salted water.
“Nigerians should be careful with the people that are within the West African region where the Ebola virus disease is prominent.
“It has not been confirmed by the Federal Ministry of Health that salt can cure or prevent Ebola; people should be careful and wash hands regularly,’’ Nwachukwu said.
Besides, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) described the information as a fallacy.
Mr Marcel Nnoba, Anambra NMA Chairman, told NAN in Awka on Friday that the claim was not medically founded.
The medical expert said that Ebola was a viral infection that could survive when put in raw salt and advised people to disregard it.
He said that the rumour could have been the handy work of business minded people who wanted to make economic gains from the unfortunate Ebola scourge in the country.
“It is not true, it is pure fallacy and not medically correct. How can you expect such solution to cure a viral disease when it can survive when you put it in raw salt?
“People should disregard the fallacy and maintain healthy lifestyles, and avoiding infected patients,” he said.