This work is being hampered by false, often homophobic, theories that are spreading across all major social media platforms, according to research conducted for the MIT Technology Review by the Center for Digital Hate Countering. These false claims make it harder to convince the public that smallpox can affect everyone and could deter people from reporting possible infections.
Some of this misinformation overlaps with known pandemic conspiracy theories, attacking Bill Gates and the “global elites” or suggesting that the virus developed in a laboratory. But much of it is downright homophobic and trying to blame the outbreak on LGBTQ + communities. Some Twitter posts claim that countries where anti-LGBTQ + rhetoric is illegal are the areas where monkeypox cases are highest, or call the virus “God’s revenge.” In a video shared on Twitter last month, Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene falsely claimed that “the monkey’s smallpox is only transmitted primarily through gay sex.”
Homophobic comments on articles about monkeypox that have been liked thousands of times on Facebook have allowed them to stay online, with one specific piece that garnered hundreds of disgusting reactions shared more than 40,000 times via Telegram .
A YouTube video of a channel with 1.12 million subscribers includes false claims that the monkey’s smallpox can be avoided by simply not going to gay orgies, being bitten by a rodent, or catching a prairie dog as a pet. It has been viewed more than 178,000 times. Another video, from a channel with 294,000 subscribers, states that women contract smallpox from the monkey by coming into “contact with a man who is likely to have some other contact with another man”; has been seen nearly 30,000 times. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube did not respond to requests for comment in time to post.
This stigma has real consequences: Infected people who may not want to talk about their sex life are less likely to report their symptoms, making it difficult to follow up on new cases and effectively control the disease.
In fact, the virus can affect anyone, and is unaware of people’s identities or sexual activities. The misinformation surrounding the monkey’s smallpox as it exclusively affects men who have sex with men could convince people who have a lower risk of contracting it and spreading it than they really do, says Julii Brainard, an associate researcher. University of East Anglia senior working in modeling. threats to public health. “A lot of people will think,‘ That doesn’t apply to me, ’” he says.
None of this is helped by the fact that we are still unsure of all the ways in which monkeypox could be transmitted or how it is currently spreading. We know that it is transmitted through close contact with an infected person or animal, but the WHO has said that it is also investigating reports that the virus is present in human semen, suggesting that it could also be transmitted sexually, although sequencing data to date have not provided evidence. that the monkey’s smallpox acts as an STD. It is not known which animal acts as a natural reservoir for smallpox (the host that keeps the virus in the wild), although the WHO suspects that it is a rodent.
Although it is not yet clear how or where the outbreak began, the WHO believes that outside of some countries in West and Central Africa where the virus is commonly found, it began to spread from person to person. mainly between men who have sex with men, after two radishes. in Spain and Belgium. While typical symptoms of monkeypox include swollen lymph nodes followed by a ruptured injury to the face, hands, and feet, many people affected by the latest outbreak have fewer injuries, which develop in the hands. , anus, mouth and genitals. This difference is likely to be related to the nature of the contact.