Bananas With Flesh Eating Bacteria? An email and text hoax warning consumers that they could contract a gruesome and fatal “skin-eating” disease from eating bananas has terrified Southern Africans in recent weeks.
The hoax e-mail and text message warned people against eating bananas for the next three weeks, especially fruit from the South African KwaZulu-Natal region, and to see a doctor if they developed a fever after eating bananas.
The email went viral in southern Africa, causing the sale of bananas there to plunge. Banana sales in Mozambique’s capital Maputo fell sharply despite the fact that it does not import bananas from its neighbor.
According to the hoax message, scientists have learned that the bacteria has been able to graft itself to the skin of bananas in the region and if the bacteria came into contact with human flesh, it would slowly eat away through layers of the skin, resulting in amputation or death.
Messages also said that monkeys had been infected with the bacteria but that the Food and Drug Association of Mozambique was reluctant to issue a warning.
The message, however, is a hoax. This was according to the KZN Banana Growers Association (KBGA) and hoax-buster website Snopes.com.
Snopes.com said the hoax e-mail has been doing the rounds since 1999, but the original message claimed that bananas in Costa Rica were contaminated.
Three government agencies in Mozambique have since reassured people of the safety of bananas. “From the work conducted by the Ministries of Agriculture, Health and Trade and Industry, it was concluded that there is no record of entry of any infected banana in the country,” the ministries said in a joint statement.
In a separate statement, South Africa’s agriculture ministry also denounced the messages as a hoax and strongly advised against burning the skin around the supposed infection, as suggested in the message. Local farmers have also junked the notice.
The hoax was successful for weeks because it worked on people’s fears of being infected by a disease that actually exists: necrotising fasciitis.
Necrotizing fasciitis is a flesh-eating bacterial infection of the connective tissues that usually begins in an existing infection found frequently on an extremity or in a wound. The bacteria—usually Streptococci and Staphylococci or sometimes even many different genera and species of bacteria working together—can destroy skin, fat and tissue covering the muscles. The disease is a serious condition that usually leads to death or amputation of affected limbs and is often associated with sepsis and widespread organ failure.
Bananas With Flesh Eating Bacteria? Posted 5 December 2011.