Burning Man 2023: 'Ebola outbreak' conspiracies debunked

Burning Man 2023: 'Ebola outbreak' conspiracies debunked
Thousands stranded at Burning Man Festival after heavy rain
Fox - Ktvu / VideoElephant

Ironically, a festival named Burning Man has proven how much of a dumpster fire Twitter/X can really be, as the Nevada event in Black Rock Desert has been shrouded in misinformation that the gathering is housing an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, rather than dealing with flooding.

However, in a statement to indy100, the Bureau of Land Management's (which oversees the Black Rock Desert site) public information officer for Burning Man said: "I can confirm the event entrance was closed for the year because unusual rainfall caused muddy conditions where there was a full stop on vehicles, and not for an Ebola outbreak.

"We have heard no information of any participants with Ebola."

In a press release sent on Sunday, Burning Man organisers added: "The online rumors of transmissible illnesses in Black Rock City are unfounded and untrue."

They also said morale was "high" throughout Saturday and remained high on Sunday.

"People are sharing resources and looking after one another ... There is music playing, camp meals being shared, socializing, and walking around the playa to look at art and interact as a community," they wrote.

According to Burning Man’s official website, the festival sees “tens of thousands of people gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-resilience”.

Nudity is allowed, and it’s understood the event has become more of a status symbol for tech entrepreneurs in recent years, to the frustration of others.

The weather

It began this year on 27 August, but things soon took a turn for the worse after a rainstorm hit the desert site on Friday and Saturday, turning it into a mud pit.


Stuck here… praying for Sunshine!! #BurningManvideos #Burningman #burningman2023 #burningmanvideo #burningmanart #nationaldisaster #help #sos #mud #police #disasters #burner #burners #burningmantips #burningmandisaster #blackrockcity #blackrockdesert #nevada #emergency

The severe weather is set to continue on Sunday, according to The National Weather Service in Reno.

Just after midnight on Sunday, the Burning Man Traffic account tweeted: “The gate and airport in and out of Black Rock City remain closed. Ingress [entry] and egress [exit] are halted until further notice.

“No driving is permitted except emergency vehicles. If you are in [Black Rock City], conserve food and water, and shelter in a warm space.

“More updates to come. Stay safe!”

Despite repeated updates from organisers stating the only road in and out of the festival – Gate Road – remained closed, music producer Diplo (known for being part of the groups Major Lazer, Jack Ü and LSD) uploaded a video to Twitter/X in which he could be seen in the back of a van with comedian Chris Rock.

“Just walked five miles in the mud out of Burning Man with Chris Rock and a fan picked us up,” he wrote.

More than 73,000 “burners” remain stranded on site.

An 'Ebola outbreak'

It was reported on Saturday that one individual has died onsite at Burning Man Festival, with the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office confirming the death happened during the event but offering few additional details.

On Sunday, Burning Man confirmed in a press release the individual died on Friday, with the cause being "unrelated to the weather".

"Our emergency services department reached a call for service extremely quickly for a male, approximately 40 years old, and could not resuscitate the patient," they said.

Yet the tragic demise has only fuelled online speculation that the festival is dealing with an outbreak of Ebola, with some claiming the flooding is a cover for a far more serious health crisis.

One unsubstantiated text message purporting to be from a Burning Man attendee, which is circulating online, reads: “Yo just figured you should hear from me first. Darrel is crazy sick with something that has him coughing up really coagulated blood.

“Medic showed up wearing a full suit. No idea where he is now. I would stay inside your camper.”

Another unverified text message claims organisers are “saying it’s Ebola”.

Other tweets have seen users share doctored headlines from Forbes and fake tweets from Burning Man and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – and even articles from news outlets debunking the fake news have been met with scepticism online:

This is despite an anonymous Los Angeles physician telling Insider that an Ebola outbreak is unlikely, and that the bad weather means attendees are more likely to be at risk of hypothermia.

Covid-19, food poisoning and stomach bugs are also a risk the longer they are stranded, he added.

Meanwhile in posts on the official Burning Man subreddit, users have rubbished the claims, with one sharing safety tips with the note “there is no Ebola outbreak” and another writing that their partner is on site and people are “having fun”.

The report is similar to comments made by attendee Karole Holland-Hagino, who told the Los Angeles Times that there was no truth “at all” to the social media rumours about a virus and that everyone was “healthy and happy”.

“Everyone is great and everyone adapting,” she texted the outlet.

As mentioned previously, the Bureau of Land Management has confirmed to indy100 that the site entrance was not closed because of an ebola outbreak, and that they have "heard no information of any participants with Ebola".

Meanwhile Burning Man said on Sunday that online rumours about "transmissible illnesses" are "unfounded and untrue".

indy100 has approached the CDC and Nevada's Department of Health and Human Services for comment.

Memes take over the internet

And in amongst the chaos, Twitter/X users haven’t held back when it comes to sharing memes about the whole situation:

Others expressed shock that the festival actually offers the opportunity to get on a plane and… well… have some fun:

That's enough internet for one day...

It’s not the first time Burning Man has been hit by extreme weather, as it had to turn away revellers in 2014 following severe rain, and entry to the site was paused for three hours in 2018 after dust storms.

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