September 19, 2019
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Phony online Ebola story causing concerns in Fort Kent

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Downtown Fort Kent is seen Friday. Kaci Hickox returned last week to the U.S. from West Africa, where she treated Ebola patients. She is fighting a 21-day home quarantine.

FORT KENT, Maine — A false story in an online satirical website claiming Kaci Hickox, the nurse released from isolation after returning last week to the U.S. from West Africa where she treated Ebola patients, is in a local hospital showing symptoms of that disease is creating concern and headaches.

Fort Kent health and law enforcement officials confirmed Monday morning the nurse remains symptom-free and is not in the hospital.

“This is a very disturbing post,” Fort Kent’s police chief Tom Pelletier said Monday morning of the faux article posted on Amplifying Glass. “There are people who don’t understand this is a fake news site.”

The chief said he is getting calls from residents who read the post online.

“When you look at the comments below the story, there are people who say this is satire,” Pelletier said. “But then I get the guy down the road who reads it and does not know the difference and is calling me all worried we have Ebola in town.”

The fake news article claims Hickox was taken to “the hospital after presenting possible symptoms of an Ebola infection. Hickox was taken via ambulance to Kent General hospital after Maine CDC officials responsible for monitoring her condition noted a high fever.”

Calling itself an “entertainment website,” according to its Facebook page, Amplifying Glass and “a provider of eclectic content [with] fun and interesting stories to entertain and educate.”

Officials at Northern Maine Medical Center in Fort Kent Monday morning confirmed the story is false and that Hickox has not been brought in for treatment.

“This is a false story,” Joanne Fortin, hospital spokesperson, said. “People do need to be informed and if they need to, call us for clarification. We want to make sure people get good information.”

Last week the hospital logged numerous cancellations from people thanks to fear of possible Ebola contact at the hospital.

“We are tracking those,” Fortin said. “Our sense is things seemed to have settled down but we will see what today brings.”

The Amplifying Glass post first appeared last Wednesday, but many people apparently only saw it over the weekend on social media sites.

“This is absolutely a concern,” Pelletier said. “We are still trying to mitigate people’s concerns and this just perpetuates the fears around town when we have something like this.”

On Monday morning he was working to contact the editors at Amplifying Glass to see if they would remove the post.

“People saw it on Facebook and that made it real,” he said. “It is just wrong.”



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