Africa: Ignore Old Message Warning You Not to Consume ‘Ebola-Infected’ Soft Drinks

Ignore old message warning you not to consume ‘Ebola-infected’ soft drinks

IN SHORT: In 2014, a message circulated on social media urging people to avoid HIV-infected soft drinks. A few years later, a similarly worded message claimed that fruit drink brand Maaza and other soft drinks were infected with Ebola. The message was false in 2014 and remains false 10 years later.

An old message has resurfaced on social media, warning users not to consume soft drinks such as Fanta and Pepsi and the fruit drink Maaza. It claims the drinks contain Ebola-infected blood.

The message says the information comes from the police in the city of Hyderabad in India. It also says that the warning was reported by NDTV, an Indian news channel.

The message reads:

Please forward it to all friends Information has been given by Hyderabad Police all over India. Please do not drink any cold drink like Maaza, Fanta, 7 Up, Coca Cola, Mountain Deo, Pepsi, etc. for the next few days because one of the company’s workers has mixed the contaminated blood of dangerous virus named Ebola in it. This news was told in NDTV channel yesterday. Please help by forwarding this message as soon as possible.

Ebola is a virus that multiplies rapidly in the body, weakening the immune system. It can lead to haemorrhaging and death through shock and multiple organ failure. It is named after the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it was first discovered in the 1970s.

The virus is transmitted by contact with the bodily fluids of infected animals or people. Symptoms include severe headache, fever, sore throat and red eyes.

A 2014 version of the message claimed that Maaza products were contaminated with HIV-positive blood.

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, attacks the body’s white blood cells and weakens the immune system. It can be transmitted through the blood or other body fluids of an HIV-positive person during unprotected sex, childbirth or breastfeeding.

There is no cure for HIV, but it can be treated with antiretroviral drugs, which stop the virus from replicating.

Other posts making the claim about Ebola-infected drinks can be found here, here and here. It was also sent to Africa Check by our What’s Crap on WhatsApp subscribers. (Note: See more instances of the claim at the end of this report.)

But is it true?

Several red flags

There are a few signs that the message cannot be trusted. The first is that it tries to convey a sense of urgency, with the phrases “please forward to all friends” and “forward this message as soon as possible”. Such tactics play on users’ emotions, in order to spread more widely.

The fact that the claim is supposedly from the Hyderabad police but is not linked to an official police statement is another red flag. Police usually issue statements on their websites and social media accounts.

The message has been posted on different dates and in each case it claims “This news was told in NDTV channel yesterday”. Africa Check found no reports from the news channel about Ebola-infected drinks.

In 2019, the Hyderabad police distanced themselves from the message.

“Fake news spreading on social media about cool drinks and a warning from Hyderabad city police is fake one and Hyderabad city police never released any message regarding this,” they wrote on the social media platform at the time known as Twitter.

We also couldn’t find the warning on the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s website or social media platforms. We would have expected the ministry to have been aware of this, if true, and to have informed the public.

There are also no reports from any credible news source about the claim between 2014 and 2024.

The same message was posted on Facebook in 2015 here and here, in 2016 here and here, in 2017 here and here, and in 2023 here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. It resurfaced in 2024 here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.