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Monkeypox Myths: Know The Truth Behind These 7 ‘Claims’

Several recent cases of monkeypox, a rare disease associated with the smallpox virus family, have left many of us with questions - and, of course, a considerable amount of incorrect information to sort through.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), monkeypox is spread from animals to humans by direct contact with blood and bodily fluids from infected animals. WHO states that, nevertheless, the disease can spread among humans through skin-to-skin contact with infected individuals, inhalation of an infected individual's respiratory droplets (for extended periods of time), and contact with materials contaminated by an infected individual (such as bedding and clothing) [1][2].

According to the World Health Organization, there are now 131 cases of monkeypox, and a further 106 suspected cases, in 19 countries. Experts describe the outbreak as "random" but "containable" and believe that it was likely triggered by sexual activity at recent raves in Spain and Belgium.

Monkeypox: Myths And Facts

Myth 1: Monkeypox is a sexually transmitted infection (STI)

Monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted infection despite the fact that it is usually spread through close contact with an infected individual. Sexual contact is only one example of skin-to-skin contact; holding hands, touching, hugging, or kissing are other ways this can occur. The condition can also be transmitted through body fluids or contaminated bed sheets and clothing, according to the WHO [3].

A second reason monkeypox has been associated with STIs is the fact that monkeypox symptoms may appear on the genital areas. In response, the CDC has requested that STI clinics throughout the country pay attention to patients' symptoms and keep an eye out for monkeypox cases. However, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

Myth 2: Monkeypox is transmitted only through monkeys

The name monkeypox does not necessarily mean that the disease is transmitted by monkeys or if one has close contact with monkeys. A monkeypox infection may be transmitted to humans by close contact with an infected person or animal, or by material contaminated with the virus. Any animal can transmit the disease [4].

Myth 3: Eating meat can cause monkeypox

Monkeypox cannot be contracted by eating meat alone, according to experts. Many posts have been made on social media regarding people getting monkeypox from eating meat, a theory that experts have debunked yet again. The consumption of infected animals can cause the virus to spread, but eating healthy, well-cooked meat does not pose a problem [5].

Myth 4: AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine is causing monkeypox

It has been widely reported, particularly in Britain, that AstraZeneca's Coronavirus vaccine causes monkeypox. However, experts have called this myth into question and asked the public to refrain from spreading inaccurate information [6].

Myth 5: Monkeypox is more contagious than COVID-19

According to experts, although one should remain cautious, monkeypox is not more contagious than COVID-19. According to Dr NK Arora, Chairperson of the Covid working group, National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI), monkeypox is not as contagious or severe as Covid. In spite of this, its spread is a cause for concern. India has not yet reported any suspected cases [7].

Myth 6: Only gay or bisexual men get monkeypox

There is another hoax conspiracy theory. As per reports, monkeypox reported among gay/bisexual men has led to a rapid increase in homophobia. The virus does not discriminate, however. CNN quoted Dr John Brooks, chief medical officer of the CDC's Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, as saying that anyone can contract monkeypox infection. "Some groups may have a greater chance of exposure right now, but by no means is the current risk of exposure to monkeypox exclusively to the gay and bisexual community [8]."

Myth 7: Monkeypox only affects people in African countries

On Twitter, many users have remarked that news outlets covering monkeypox often use images of people of colour. Even though this has been the dominant visual trend for some time, anyone can contract the virus if they come into contact with an infected individual. Despite the fact that the disease is most prevalent in Central and West African countries, this does not mean that it only affects people from these countries [9].

On A Final Note...

Although the cause of the outbreak has not yet been identified, United Nations health officials expressed concern over the homophobic and racist stereotypes being promoted by media outlets reporting on the virus. They added that anyone can contract the disease. Currently, no monkeypox cases have been reported in India and the government agencies are prepared to deal with the situation if it occurs.

Story first published: Friday, May 27, 2022, 9:47 [IST]
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