Monkeypox Myths and Misconceptions: Debunking Common Misunderstandings

In this blog post, we will clear up misconceptions and provide the facts about monkeypox.

Monkeypox Myths and Misconceptions: Debunking Common Misunderstandings
Debunking common myths about monkeypox (mpox). Photo by visuals / Unsplash

Since the first case of monkeypox was reported in the United States in May 2022, the virus has become a public health emergency, infecting tens of thousands of people around the world. However, as monkeypox has spread, so has misinformation about the illness, causing confusion and fear. In this blog post, we will clear up misconceptions and provide the facts about monkeypox.

Misconception No. 1: Monkeypox is a new disease, just like COVID-19 is.

Although most Americans have only heard of monkeypox recently, the virus has been known since the late 1950s. The virus originated in Africa, where it was first detected in a colony of monkeys kept for research purposes. The current outbreak has some unique features, such as transmission primarily occurring between people. A study published in July in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) analyzed 528 cases of monkeypox in 16 countries. Overall, 98 percent of those infected were gay or bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

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February 2023 Monkeypox virus testing in the United States.

Misconception No. 2: You can get monkeypox by shaking hands, trying on used clothes at a thrift shop, or sharing exercise equipment.

A person who has monkeypox will develop a rash or scabs that can spread the virus when touched, but handshakes don’t present a major risk. Transmission typically involves intimate, prolonged skin-to-skin contact. Likewise, people don’t need to worry about monkeypox when shopping at thrift stores, even though the CDC says that the virus can spread through soiled linens. It’s not really out in the general population, and we’re talking prolonged contact, skin-to-skin — that’s the main thing.

Misconception No. 3: Monkeypox is as contagious as COVID-19.

Monkeypox is not nearly as infectious as COVID-19. COVID-19 spreads through respiratory droplets such as saliva and very small particles, called aerosols, that float in the air. While it may be possible to contract monkeypox from a contaminated object, “It is extremely unlikely to catch monkeypox from something like a door handle or exercise equipment."

Misconception No. 4: Cuddling with someone who has monkeypox is okay as long as you don’t have sexual contact.

The July NEJM study looking at people infected with monkeypox found that in 95 percent of the cases, the person most likely caught the virus through sexual contact. But sexual contact does not have to occur for the disease to be passed from person to person. Even long sessions of kissing or cuddling can result in virus transmission. “If a person with monkeypox had lesions on their skin and their skin rubs against someone else’s skin, that can transmit the disease."

Misconception No. 5: Monkeypox poses a threat to children and can spread easily in schools and daycare centers.

Very few children have had confirmed cases of monkeypox, and their infection risk is low, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). As of August 21, there have been 17 cases in the United States in children 0 to 15 years old and 134 cases in adolescents and young adults 16 to 20. It is important to note that schools and daycare centers are at low risk of transmission, and the AAP has stated that the current outbreak of monkeypox should not be a cause for panic among parents or school staff.

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In conclusion, it is important to separate fact from fiction when it comes to monkeypox. Although the virus has spread rapidly, it is not as contagious as COVID-19. While monkeypox is a serious illness, it’s important to separate fact from fiction in order to better understand the disease and its risks. With accurate information, you can make informed decisions and take appropriate measures to protect yourself and your loved ones.

As monkeypox continues to be a concern, it’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest developments and recommendations from reputable sources such as the CDC and WHO. By understanding the true nature of the disease and how it spreads, we can work together to prevent further outbreaks and keep ourselves and our communities healthy.

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