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5 monkeypox myths, debunked: No, the 2022 outbreak did not spread from Africa

Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 7/26/2022

The World Health Organization declared monkeypox a global health emergency on Saturday as cases continue to rise worldwide.

There have been 17,852 out of 18,095 cases reported this year that have come from countries that have not historically reported monkeypox. Out of these nonendemic countries, the United States has reported over 3,800 cases.

In Texas, North Texas has reported the most cases with 89 out of the state’s 183 cases. The Texas Department of State Health Services received a shipment Monday of 14,780 doses of the JYNNEOS, a vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent monkeypox.

How is monkeypox spread? What caused the 2022 outbreak? Here is a look at the myths versus the facts surrounding the monkeypox virus according to health officials.

Myth: The 2022 monkeypox outbreak spread from African countries

Fact: The first case of human monkeypox was reported on May 17 in Portugal.

While the monkeypox virus is endemic, or commonly found, in some West African countries, reported cases in 2022 have no established travel links to endemic areas, according to the WHO.

Myth: Monkeypox is the same as smallpox

Fact: The symptoms of monkeypox are similar to but milder than the symptoms of smallpox, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox begins with fever, headache, muscle aches and exhaustion.

The monkeypox virus also causes lymph nodes to swell while smallpox does not.

Myth: Monkeypox can only be spread by homosexual men

Fact: Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has monkeypox is at risk, according to the CDC.

While reported cases have involved men who have sex with men, monkeypox is not exclusive to homosexual men.

According to the CDC, monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease, although it can spread during intimate physical contact between people.

Monkeypox can spread when a person comes into contact with the virus from an infected animal, infected person, or materials contaminated with the virus, per the CDC. The virus can also cross the placenta from the mother to her fetus.

Myth: The monkeypox virus is deadly

Fact: The monkeypox virus is rarely fatal, with over 99% of infected people likely to survive.

People with weakened immune systems, children under 8 years of age, people with a history of eczema and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding may be more likely to get seriously ill or die, CDC officials report.

Myth: There is not a vaccine for monkeypox

Fact: Currently there is no specific treatment approved for monkeypox virus infections, however several antivirals developed for use in patients with smallpox can be beneficial in treating monkeypox.

JYNNEOS, also known as Imvamune or Imvanex, is a vaccine approved by the FDA to prevent monkeypox.

Healthy individuals with a mild case of monkeypox don’t need specific therapy. Patients considered for treatment include those with severe disease, people at high risk for severe disease and those infected in an especially dangerous part of the body.

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