"Rumors are rife that if you eat three large onions, for example, you won't get Ebola -- but if you go to the hospital, you will get it," said Dan Epstein, a WHO spokesman in Switzerland.
One of the most revered local customs could account for much of the disease's spread, Ebola experts say: Local tradition calls for washing a corpse before it is buried, putting everyone who participates in the ritual in touch with bodily fluids that contain the virus.
"The cultural practices are so deeply imbedded that local people have told health care workers that if they did not adhere to the ablutions (ritual washing of the corpse), they would be shunned by everyone in their family and village," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Government task forces have run radio and television ads to try to counter the myths, but mistrust of the government can render them ineffective, said Epstein.
How Can Ebola Be Stopped?: Page 2