Rumor Spread and Control During the West African Ebola Epidemic in Liberia

Document Type

Journal Article

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Ebola; Liberia; rumor control; rumor surveillance; tracking system


The severity of the 2014-2015 West African Ebola epidemic in Liberia was coupled with widespread misunderstanding about Ebola among Liberian citizens and the proliferation of rumors. Rumor control during outbreaks is imperative to reduce the public's fears about a disease. In Liberia, a rumor tracker system was developed to detect rumors as quickly as possible through SMS text messaging. The focus of this study was to assess rumor circulation in newspapers and radio and rumor control over time. The review relied on a content analysis of SMS messages, print and audio communications collected from Liberian newspapers, SMS messages from the "DeySay" tracker, and radio programs, during the time frame January 2014 to March 2015. Findings showed more rumors appeared in newspapers but were more likely to be overtly identified and characterized as rumors on radio. The "DeySay" rumor tracker accurately predicted rumors before they appeared in radio programs and newspaper articles, making the case for its usefulness and feasibility in future health epidemics.


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