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Rumours of Ebola outbreak at Burning Man Festival – here’s why they’re false

The Burning Man festival in Nevada has been dominated by rain, mud baths and videos of Chris Rock and Diplo’s escape – but a slightly different picture is emerging online.

Social media has seen a torrent of misinformation claims of an “Ebola outbreak” at the festival – causing mass panic.

The hashtag #Ebola has made up almost a quarter of posts on TikTok and Twitter from the Nevada region over the past few days.

Sky News has been taking a look at where some of them have come from – and why they’re false.

Tens of thousands of partygoers have been stuck in the northern Nevada Black Rock Desert following heavy rain that began on Thursday.

One of the false claims circulating is that an Ebola outbreak was confirmed at Black Rock City by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – the US health regulator.

Screenshots of a fake post by the CDC claiming that an outbreak had been “confirmed” – posted on Sunday on platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter – have had over 300,000 views.

The post features a manipulated health advisory infographic from a previous CDC Ebola campaign, but replaces the subtitle of “Recently in Africa?” to “Recently in Nevada?”

The screenshot makes it look like the official CDC X page, which uses the handle of @CDCgov, published the post.

But a closer look at the real account shows the centre has not publicly mentioned anything about an outbreak in Nevada.

A community note on X does warn that the post is either “deliberate misinformation” or a joke that got “out of hand”, but some critics say the note was added too late.

#Ebola dominates almost quarter of posts

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The hashtag #Ebola has also dominated social media posts from the Nevada region over the last few days, data from social listening platform TalkWalker shows.

Between 27 and 31 August, Ebola does not appear in posts from TikTok and X from the region of Nevada.

Word map
Image:
Ebola was one of the top posted terms on TikTok and Twitter in Nevada between 1 to 4 September. Pic: TalkWalker

However, between Friday and Monday, where weather has disrupted the festival – #Ebola dominates 21.4% of posts across both social media platforms in the region – demonstrating how widespread the claim has become online.

It’s unclear why the misinformation surrounding the event focused specifically on an Ebola virus outbreak, and where it originally started.

The misinformation online has even caused confusion for festivalgoers still at Burning Man, who have been posting to confirm there has not been an outbreak of the virus.

Other posts surfacing online also mention Marburgvirus – which is in the same family as the virus that causes Ebola.

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