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Feature Medicine and the Media

How Twitter may have helped Nigeria contain Ebola

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 19 November 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6946
  1. Meg Carter, freelance journalist, Bath, UK
  1. meg{at}

Targeted social media campaigns in Nigeria helped to disseminate accurate information about the disease—and to correct hoax messages, Meg Carter reports

“Social media is the fastest means of population feedback in the 21st century and provides cheap two-way information [sharing],” says Lawal Bakare, the Nigerian dentist who created the Twitter campaign @EbolaAlert. And sharing information through links to its original form lends it credibility, he added.

Bakare launched @EbolaAlert in July to recruit volunteers, disseminate accurate information, and facilitate discussion. Within a few weeks, he had 76 000 followers, though on some days Bakare thinks that messages were shared among considerably more people.1

@EbolaAlert gives the public advice about prompt reporting and good environmental and personal hygiene. For example, “How to conduct safe & dignified burial of a patient who died from suspected or confirmed Ebola (EVD),” with a link to guidance from the World Health Organization. Others tweets have targeted professionals, including announcing new WHO guidelines on personal protective equipment.

Facebook and Unicef

The campaign has spread to other platforms, including Facebook, and is helping in nearby countries. Other initiatives are also exploiting social …

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