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The myths about monkeypox 

News outlets have been using scare tactics and scapegoating gay and bisexual men for rising cases of monkeypox
Issue 2806
monkey pox

The monkeypox virus under a microscope

Mainstream media panic over monkeypox is risking a new epidemic of racism and homophobia. Lurid myths of a disease that in many editors’ minds spreads mostly among gay and bisexual African men are making the outbreak harder to tackle. Some news outlets have even asked whether its spread is a “new Covid” that will sweep the world.

That is nonsense. For a start there are already highly effective vaccinations and treatments for monkeypox. And, it is far more difficult than Covid to spread because it does not infect through aerosol transmission—it is not caught by breathing tiny virus droplets in contaminated air.

The World Health Organisation says most of those infected will recover without treatment. But it can be more severe, especially in young children, pregnant women, and individuals who are immunocompromised. The monkeypox virus originates in tropical rainforest areas of west and central African where it is relatively common. 

Most people that catch the virus do so after contact with infected animals or their faeces. In part, that reflects the way humans are increasingly encroaching into wild areas.  The virus is not primarily transmitted between humans through sex.

It spreads mostly through close physical contact, and by contaminated clothes and bedding. Suggesting that the virus primarily affects African men that have sex with men stigmatises them, making the disease harder to stop. It also creates a false sense of security for others.

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