The CDC hasn’t classified monkeypox as airborne; transmission is typically through sustained physical contact
Monkeypox can spread in various ways, commonly through sustained physical contact. Currently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t consider monkeypox to be airborne—airborne viruses remain in the air for a long time and infect people who keep their distance. Contrary to claims made on social media, the monkeypox virus is related to smallpox and isn’t a form of herpes, it doesn’t cause paralysis, and it typically clears within a few weeks, although people with weakened immune systems can develop severe illness.
Factually inaccurate: The CDC hasn’t classified monkeypox as airborne. Monkeypox isn’t a form of herpes. The illness typically lasts a few weeks, not months. Paralysis is not a symptom listed for monkeypox.
Correct: The CDC advises that anyone infected or suspected of being infected with monkeypox should isolate themselves to avoid transmitting it to other people.
The recent monkeypox outbreak has led to the disease spreading in dozens of countries where it isn’t normally found. There have been over 25,000 cases and a small number of deaths, leading to the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring a global health emergency.
An image posted by the Fathers Matter Facebook page included several incorrect claims about monkeypox. Although the image features a logo for BBC News and has been designed in a similar style to their articles, we weren’t able to locate the original source on the BBC News website, suggesting that the image didn’t actually come from BBC News. The image may have been imitating the style of BBC News to give the image more credibility. However, the post contains multiple inaccuracies about monkeypox, as we will explain below.
Monkeypox isn’t classified as airborne by the U.S. CDC
Monkeypox can spread in different ways, however many people with the disease report close, sustained physical contact with others who are infected with the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on its website:
“The virus can spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids. It also can be spread by respiratory secretions during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex.”
The CDC also notes that it can spread by touching items previously in contact with bodily fluids or infected animals.
The widely-shared Facebook post claimed that the CDC had classified monkeypox as airborne, which is not correct. This confusion may have come from misinterpreting the potential for transmission through respiratory secretions. The CDC made the distinction clear in a statement on 9 June:
“There are important differences between airborne transmission and transmission via respiratory secretions. Airborne transmission occurs when small virus particles become suspended in the air and can stay there for periods of time. These particles can spread on air currents, or sometimes even infect people who enter a room after the infected person has left. In contrast, monkeypox may be found in droplets like saliva or respiratory secretions that drop out of the air quickly. Long range (e.g., airborne) transmission of monkeypox has not been reported.”
A more recent report from the U.K. Health Security Agency also found that, as of 19 July 2022, there were no confirmed cases of airborne transmission in England.
Contrary to the claims in the Facebook post, the CDC so far hasn’t appeared to have issued any advice suggesting that it can spread to people 15 feet away.
Monkeypox is not a herpes virus; it belongs to a different family of viruses known as Poxviridae
The Facebook post also incorrectly claimed that monkeypox is “now classified as a form of herpes”. Monkeypox is caused by the same group of viruses as smallpox, known as poxviruses. These are unrelated to those that cause herpes. Despite the similarity in their names, monkeypox isn’t related to chickenpox, which is caused by a herpesvirus.
The symptoms of monkeypox include blisters and scabs, which may be confused with the appearance of herpes in some cases. However, these diseases are still different from each other.
Monkeypox typically clears within a few weeks
The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the symptoms of monkeypox go away on their own within two to four weeks in most cases. This is significantly shorter than the claim made by the Facebook post that it would “typically last 2-4 months”. In some cases, the disease can lead to long-term medical complications or death, but these are rare.
The Facebook post also stated “if you have symptoms avoid going outside”. This is in line with the WHO guidelines in the sense of isolating yourself from others if you have symptoms or have tested positive, which says:
“If you think you have symptoms of monkeypox, contact your healthcare provider for advice, testing and medical care. Until you receive your test result, isolate yourself from others if possible. Clean your hands regularly. If you test positive for monkeypox, your healthcare provider will advise you on whether you should isolate at home or in a health facility, and what care you need.”
Paralysis is not a typical monkeypox symptom
The WHO doesn’t list paralysis as a symptom of monkeypox, and we were unable to find any reports of people being paralyzed in the current outbreak. However, the disease can cause serious symptoms and death in vulnerable people, such as newborn babies and people with underlying immune deficiencies.
The CDC says the West African monkeypox virus, which is the cause of the current outbreak, is rarely fatal. Over 99% of people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive.