In recent weeks, rumors have been spreading on Chinese social media sites that Ebola is transforming its human victims into zombies. The stories became so prolific that China's official new agency, Xinhua, felt compelled to publish a special report that only ended up spreading more disinformation.
The rumors have spread, in part, because many victims of the Ebola virus exhibit gruesome symptoms such as bleeding from the eyes, ears and mouths—similar to the appearance of the living dead in films and television.
As Quartz reports, the government-controlled media has attempted to calm the public, albeit rather poorly:
Xinhua promised readers that, contrary to chatter on the Internet, Ebola is not a "zombie disease." But the agency's attempt to allay readers' fears of reanimation actually isn't particularly reassuring.
"An Ebola sufferer may lose consciousness or faint, making him or her appear dead," Xinhua explains. "But a few hours or even days later the patient may suddenly come to and enter an extremely violent state, tearing at and biting anything that moves, including people and animals."
This suggestion is itself highly suspect. Violent episodes could conceivably happen as the result of an extreme hallucinogenic fever brought on by Ebola, but Quartz hasn't been able to find any reports of the phenomenon described in Xinhua. Most of the violence related to the Ebola outbreak so far has been the work of uninfected locals who have attacked international health organizations they think are responsible for bringing the disease to them.
Xinhua's article finally comforts readers by assuring them that Ebola is in fact extremely deadly. "The scariest thing about Ebola is the high death rate," Xinhua concludes. "There have never been cases of Ebola sufferers becoming zombies and attacking people. That can only happen in movies."