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No, Boko Haram not poisoning cows in northern Nigeria with cowpox – old, debunked rumour

A screenshot of a Facebook post reshared on the social media platform claims the Nigerian government is warning citizens not to eat beef from the north of the country for fear of contracting cowpox. 

The original post says the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram, has poisoned 80,000 cows with the virus.

The screenshot, published 4 August 2019, was being widely shared on Facebook in late 2020. It includes a collage of photos of severe-looking lesions or sores on human skin. The date of the original Facebook post cannot be seen.  

But is there any truth to this old claim?

Previously debunked  

Africa Check debunked a very similar claim in December 2019, made in a July 2019 Facebook post which shared the same photos. 

The only difference between the older claim and the screenshot still circulating in December 2020 is that the former did not attribute the “cow poisoning” to Boko Haram. 

Prof John Frean from the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases told Africa Check that the claim you could contract cowpox from eating an infected animal was “nonsensical, given what is known about the epidemiology of cowpox, and should be ignored”.

“Transmission is usually from skin contact with infected animals. Therefore, eating beef is not typically a risk factor for transmission,” Frean said.

And there is no evidence the Nigerian government ever gave any kind of warning about infected cows. 

Lastly, neither the World Health Organization nor the Nigeria Center for Disease Control have recorded any cases of cowpox in Nigeria in either 2018, 2019 or 2020. The claim on Facebook is false. – Allwell Okpi


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