Myths and Facts

Monkeypox was first documented in 1958 among research monkeys (hence, the name), and in 1970, cases among humans were discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo and have been concentrated in Central and West African countries like Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. There have also been occasional cases in Israel, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As a result, a significant body of information already exists, which some may find reassuring. For example, according to the WHO, the smallpox vaccine has efficacy against monkeypox, and there are existing developed vaccines. Additionally, there is also an existing antiviral medication. For more information about the monkeypox vaccine, visit the CDC’s website .

Monkeypox is a sexually transmitted infection (False)

Even though it most commonly spreads through close contact with an infected individual, monkeypox is not an STI. Sex is just one example of close skin-to-skin contact, says Dr. Osmundson. Holding hands, touching, hugs, or kissing are other ways monkeypox can spread. It’s also possible to spread the condition through body fluids or contaminated bed sheets and clothing, the WHO says.

Another reason monkeypox has been associated with STIs is because monkeypox symptoms can appear on the genitals. As a result, the CDC is asking STI clinics across the country to pay attention to their patient’s symptoms and watch out for cases. However, the virus is not considered an STI.

Monkeypox only affects gay and bisexual men (False)

The documented cases that we have seen have spread via international travel, two documented raves, and other situations that involve close, skin-to-skin contact (like sex). But remember, monkeypox is not an STI, and Dr. Osmundson says anyone could potentially contract it.

It just so happens that the recorded cases so far have disproportionately affected specific communities like men who have sex with men. However, this is correlative and doesn’t mean that it is a community-specific infection, says David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors.

Monkeypox is the next COVID-19 (False)

Yes, monkeypox is concerning, but it is very different from COVID-19 in many ways. First, it is not a respiratory illness: It spreads through close contact with infected persons or particles, according to the WHO. While it can be spread by inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected person, it is not a disease that attacks the respiratory system like COVID-19.

Since the virus is part of the smallpox family, the vaccine for smallpox (that most adults in the U.S. born before 1970 received) is effective against monkeypox to some extent. If you’re curious if you’ve been vaccinated for smallpox, you can inquire about your vaccination status with a provider.

Monkeypox only affects people in African countries (False)

Many people on Twitter have pointed out that news outlets covering monkeypox are using photos of people of color particularly Black people with cases of monkeypox. Although this has been a predominant visual trend, anyone of any race and skin color can contract the virus if they come into contact with an infected person.

It is true that the disease is most common in Central and West African nations, but that does not mean that it only affects people from these countries.

It’s ridiculous to worry about monkeypox (False)

The monkeypox virus does not resemble the features of COVID-19; however, some people have noticed dismissive reactions that mirror the way that some folks once talked about COVID-19. The truth is that it is okay to be worried about these cases.

Staying informed about the cases, the nature of the spread, and the communities that it is impacting is the best way to protect yourself without feeling like there’s an insurmountable crisis brewing.