With the spread of monkeypox, misinformation is on the rise

With the spread of monkeypox, misinformation is on the rise

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Monkey pox continues to spread. There are now more than 18,000 cases detected worldwide outside Africa according to the WHO. And over time, false information about this new virus is renewed. Two months ago, when he appeared, Internet users attributed its development to Bill Gates, and made the link between one of the vaccines against Covid-19 and contamination with monkeypox. Today, the disinformation focuses in particular on the lifespan of the virus, and on a supposed remedy to cure the infection. Here are four of the most commented misinformation.

“Monkey pox can survive 120 years on doorknobs”

In recent days, a screenshot showing a supposed article from the Irish newspaper The journal.ie went viral on social media. The article headlined: ‘Monkey pox can live for 120 years on doorknobs and toilet bowls, and infect anyone 5 miles (8 kilometers) away’.

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The capo says:Without wanting to sound alarmist, it’s definitely time to panic, said one expert, a journalism graduate who once read a good book on virology.“If this paragraph looks like a parody, many netizens have shared it with captions and worried comments:”a radius of five miles could decimate large cities. Monkey pox is scary”or Worse than Covid. Everybody home now. However, this article cannot be found, both on the newspaper’s website and from a Google or Twitter search, indicates Reuters. A spokesperson for Thejournali.ie confirmed to the news agency that it had never been published.

The image that was used for editing was, on the other hand, used to illustrate another articleregarding the announcement by the WHO of “the global public health emergency“what constitutes monkeypox. If contact with objects touched by an infected person can be a source of infection, no study has yet proven that the virus can resist for tens or even hundreds of years on a surface. “closer contact than with Covid-19 is necessary to be infected”, explains Olivier Schwartz, director of the Virus and Immunity unit at the Institut Pasteur to France Info. “Airborne infection likely exists, but risks are greater with saliva or spit than with aerosols“, he explains. Skin and mucous membrane lesions are also very infectious.

“Doxycycline cures monkeypox in two days”

This is false information that has a hard life. Already massively shared two months ago, it continues to be the subject of publications, especially on Twitter. Doxycycline, an antibiotic that would cure monkeypox “in 48 hours” would have been banned by the French Ministry of Health.

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Both statements in this sentence are false. First of all, doxycycline is definitely not considered a drug that can cure monkeypox, if only because it is an antibiotic, which fights against bacteria and not viruses. . “There is no evidence in the (scientific) literature to suggest that doxycycline is a treatment for monkeypox“, assures Yannick Simonin, Inserm researcher in the Pathogenesis and Control of Chronic and Emerging Infections Unit, at AFP.

This diverted information comes from the misinterpretation of a study published in the scientific journal The Lancet, May 24, 2019, that a monkeypox patient was given doxycycline “by mouth” and quickly felt better. However, the doctors prescribed this antibiotic because they initially thought that the patient had vesicular rickettsiosis, a disease caused by a bacterium and which manifests itself by symptoms similar to monkeypox. His condition then worsened again, and it was then that he was diagnosed with monkeypox.

Moreover, no official text prohibits or mentions doxycycline. Conspiratorial publications refer to this stopped of May 25, 2022, which authorizes “the use of vaccines in the context of the care of people who are at risk contacts of a person infected with the Monkeypox virus”, “by way of derogation” and “insofar as” no prophylactic treatment is available today authorized in people exposed to the Monkeypox virus”. Some Internet users see it as a ban in the subtext to make the vaccine prevail.

But again, this drug is not being studied to cure monkeypox. To date, only three antivirals are approved by the European Medicines Agency: Tecovirimat, Brincidofovir and Cidofovir. On the other hand, a clinical study presented last week at the International AIDS Conference indicates that doxycycline, taken after unprotected sex, can drastically reduce the risk of contracting three STIs: gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

The false patient of the Spanish metro

The monkeypox epidemic can also create situations of stigmatization. A few days ago, a netizen, “Arturo M Henriques B“who presents himself as a doctor, shared a photo of a man in the Madrid metro, wearing pimples on his legs, and who he says moved in the middle of the crowd when he was infected with smallpox monkey.

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According to this alleged doctor, the man would have confirmed to him that he was contaminated, but his doctor would not have prescribed isolation, only to wear a mask. His thread has been shared widely, and has even been the subject of articles in spanish media and British. However, the man present in the photo, recognizable by his tattoo, then explained to several Spanish media that he did not have monkeypox but a genetic disease, neurofibromatosis, which is not contagious. Furthermore, he confirms 20 minutes (in Spanish) have “spoken at any time” with this man, and that the photo could not have been taken in the morning as indicated, due to the circumstances of his journey. Since then, “Arturo M Henriques B” has closed his account and his tweets are no longer accessible. The newspaper The Sun, which had relayed the information, replaced the original article with a disclaimer.

Reused photos… would be proof that it is a fake disease

At the heart of the conspiracy theory, the persistent idea that the virus does not exist, and that the epidemic would have been planned, even invented, like that of Covid-19. To prove this, Internet users have shared images of pustules used in several articles, sometimes spaced by several years. According to them, if these are reshared, it is because there are no photos of recent infections, and therefore… no recent infection with monkeypox. “The virus spreads so quickly that they don’t even have time to take new photos for their articles. Be careful !“, writes, sarcastic, this Internet user.

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If these images have indeed been used repeatedly, that is not unusual. The media uses photos from news agencies, such as this onedated 2003 and sold by Getty, reports Reuters. Indeed, monkeypox is not a disease discovered this year. It was in 1958 and since then cases have been recorded in several countries around the world, such as in Israel, the United Kingdom and Singapore in 2018-2019.

As early as 2003, several cases were confirmed in the United States, marking the first appearance of this disease outside Africa. According to the WHO, as of 2017, Nigeria experienced “a large-scale epidemic”, with more than 500 suspected cases, more than 200 confirmed cases and a fatality rate of around 3%. On July 27, the WHO called on social networks, tech companies and the media to work with the institution to “preventing and combating harmful information“on the monkeypox, as far as”as with Covid-19 (…) misinformation spreads quickly online“.

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