Experts debunk monkeypox myths as misinformation spreads

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This story comes from The 19th, a non-profit newsroom that reports on gender, politics, and policy.

Is monkeypox possible in the subway? It can kill like COVID-19. Is it transmitted by sex?

There are many myths, misinformations and lack of knowledge about monkeypox. Morning Consult found that 57% of Americans feel confident in the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop the spread of monkeypox. However, Americans are often misinformed about how the virus spreads and what they should do.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center discovered that almost half of the 1,580 adults surveyed did not know if monkeypox is less contagious than COVID-19. It is less contagious. One-third of the more than 4,000 adults polled by Morning Consult don’t know how monkeypox spreads. Annenberg surveyed two-thirds of the people who were not certain or doubtful that monkeypox exists. The vaccine is FDA-approved and available in most areas.

Monkeypox is a virus that is transmitted primarily through skin-toskin contact. It can infect any person, but it is most prevalent in queer men.

Here are the opinions of experts on common myths and misconceptions surrounding monkeypox.


Monkeypox can be contracted while shopping, in public transport, and in dressing rooms.

These situations have a very low risk of infection, according to Stephen Abbott, medical director at Whitman-Walker’s Max Robinson Center in D.C., which is a health care provider that focuses on LGBTQ+ patients.

Abbott stated that the virus spreads from skin to skin and not through skin-to skin transmission. The virus can be spread through contact with sex toys, sheets, and other fabrics that have come in contact with skin rashes or exposed lesions. However, the CDC states that the majority of cases are reported by men who were intimately or sexually involved with another man before the infection.

Primary points of transmission are those places where someone could easily catch a cold or flu virus.

“There is no evidence to suggest that people have been infected by casual contact with public transport, or any other means.” “The vast majority of cases identified in the outbreak have been caused by intimate contact or sexual activity,” stated Daniel Uslan, UCLA Health’s co-chief infection prevention officer and clinical chief of infectious disease.


Monkeypox spreads by hugging or shaking hands: Not likely

These situations are also low-risk, Uslan stated, noting that he doesn’t know of any cases in which handshaking was used as a route of transmission.

Abbott said that skin-to-skin contact can still be made with someone with an open lesion if the lesions are on the hands. Some lesions are so small that patients don’t even notice them.

He said, “Some patients that I have seen haven’t noticed they have a lesion when they do a skin exam.” They might accidentally shake hands with someone and expose them unknowingly.

However, there are some fears about monkeypox spreading, especially in low-risk situations in public places. This is because of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment. Gay and bisexual men are the ones most at risk, according to Perry Halkitis (dean and professor of public and equity health at Rutgers School of Public Health).

He said that homophobic people will use any information to stigmatize and disadvantage gay men.


Monkeypox refers to an STD/STI. Sexual contact is still the driving force behind the spread.

The virus can be spread via prolonged skin-to skin contact with lesions and rash areas. However, the primary way that the virus is currently spreading is through sex.

“You can have sex and get the flu with someone. Halkitis stated that the flu is not an STI. He said that monkeypox transmission does not require oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse.

It is technically not an STD or STI, as it does not spread solely through sexual contact. However, the current outbreak is spreading primarily via sexual contact. It is therefore technically not a sexually transmitted disease. Uslan stated.

Abbott also agreed that monkeypox was not an STD or STI by definition. Josh Michaud (associate director of global health policies at the Kaiser Family Foundation) stated that the answer shouldn’t affect how the country responds. He also noted that labeling the virus an STI might not be a black or white matter.

“What we know so far is that monkeypox cases have been overwhelmingly caused by sexual behavior. This includes men who have had sex with multiple partners. Michaud stated that transmission is strongly linked to sexual activity. “I think people are kind of debating terminology. It doesn’t mean that we have to categorize it in order to be able respond to it in a certain way.


A person is protected from monkeypox by having chickenpox or Shingles.

Despite being named in the same way, chickenpox virus is not related to monkeypox.

Michaud stated that the viruses belong to completely different families. “In the case the chickenpox virus it doesn’t provide any cross protection against monkeypox.


The smallpox vaccine is given to children as protection against monkeypox.

Experts believe that a person who was given the smallpox vaccine when they were young would have some protection from current monkeypox transmission. The viruses are all part of the same family. The immunity that a childhood smallpox shot provided may have diminished.

Abbott stated that “Health departments are still suggesting to those people get vaccinated.” He also said that smallpox was declared extinct in 1980, which may explain why immunity has waned.

Uslan observed that the fact that smallpox vaccines have been around for several decades means that not all young people are protected as well.


Monkeypox can be as deadly or contagious as COVID-19. False

Monkeypox does not have the same contagiousness or fatality as COVID-19. It is highly transmissible via airborne and respiratory routes.

Uslan stated that monkeypox is not as contagious than COVID. Monkeypox does not spread through casual contact. Evidence so far has shown that patients with the virus are not contagious until they develop symptoms. This contrasts to COVID-19 which can be spread by asymptomatic people.

Abbott stated that it is not as serious and won’t cause you to have a chronic infection. It can be very painful and uncomfortable. Most people will heal in between two and four weeks.

Scarring is a possible side effect that can last a long time, but after lesions heal, there hasn’t been any reports of “long” monkeypox syndromes similar to the longCOVID many Americans have had.


People who have had COVID-19 are more likely to contract monkeypox.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 may increase a person’s chance of contracting monkeypox. Although immunocompromised people are more vulnerable to virus infections, Halkitis pointed out that COVID-19 does not make someone more likely to contract monkeypox.

Abbott stated that “with two different diseases, one does not create exposure to the other.”


Children in are at high risk for getting monkeypox now. False

The risk to children is still minimal. Although the virus could eventually spread to their social networks, the current focus is to prevent men from having sex with women.

Uslan stated that while parents shouldn’t be too worried, it is important to pay attention to this issue. “We haven’t seen many cases in daycare settings. It doesn’t seem to be of major concern.”

Michaud stated that although there have been a few cases of monkeypox in children and women, the risk difference right now is huge.


Everybody is at the same danger of being infected now: False

If a person is among high-risk groups such as queer men, who have had multiple sexual partners, anonymous sex or aren’t using protection, their risk of contracting monkeypox right now is high.

Abbott stated that vaccinating gay and bisexual men, as well as our networks and trans people, is essential if we are to prevent this epidemic from getting worse. He also noted that these social networks can spread along with sexual networks.

Halkitis stated that young gay and bisexual men born after 1972 are at greatest risk. They have not had smallpox vaccine and are socializing with gay men in large groups.


People with eczema should not get the JYNNEOS shot. False

Even if you have eczema, it is safe to receive the JYNNEOS shot. ACAM2000 is an FDA-licensed smallpox vaccination. However, it’s not widely available due to the long list of side effects, a more complicated injection procedure and potential harm for those with eczema or other exfoliating skin conditions.


TPOXX is unsafe for HIV-positive people: False

Experts say TPOXX is safe for HIV-positive people, even those who are taking antiviral medications to manage their HIV. Halkitis stated that there are no interactions between JYNNEOS and HIV medications.

TPOXX’s effectiveness is being studied in more detail. These studies will likely begin in the next few days, Uslan stated. However, it is well-known that the treatment is safe for healthy patients.

A detailed analysis of monkeypox case reports by the CDC shows that HIV-positive people have reported a significant number of cases.

The CDC’s website has more information about monkeypox symptoms and how it spreads . You can also find out what to do if you get sick.

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