BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Monkeypox is a global health emergency. But many Americans do not have all the facts about the virus.
New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing a better picture of who is most affected by monkeypox. CNN says a report released Friday says black and Hispanic men who have sex with other men had higher numbers of infections.
According to a survey from the University of Southern California-Annenberg, almost half of Americans don't know if monkeypox is more or less contagious than COVID. In reality, monkeypox is less contagious because it involves direct contact. Some people think monkeypox is a sexually transmitted disease as a majority of cases have been diagnosed in gay men. However, monkeypox is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact and is not a sexually transmitted disease.
Conducted amid escalating cases of the coronavirus BA.5 omicron subvariant and a spread of monkeypox cases, the survey found that many people (80%) had seen, read, or heard something about monkeypox in the past month, but many lacked knowledge about the disease:
- 19% of Americans are worried about getting monkeypox in the next three months.
- 30% of those surveyed are worried about getting Covid-19 over the next three months.
- Nearly half (48%) are unsure whether monkeypox is less contagious than Covid.
- Two-thirds (66%) either are not sure or do not believe there is a vaccine for monkeypox.
“It’s important that the public calibrate its concerns to the reality of the risk of Covid-19 and monkeypox and act appropriately,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.
In Bakersfield, Anne Pinckney with the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity says they're working to clear up any misinformation or assumptions about the virus.
"The reason why people had assumed that it was an STD was because a rash can originally appear in the genital area. But it can be spread through any open sore. And so one of the things that people misunderstand is that this is not about, it's not a sexually transmitted disease, it is a disease that is transmitted through a respiratory droplet, or through an infectious sore."
Pinckney says distinguishing fact from fiction is key for communities, noting how wrong assumptions have become potentially dangerous for certain residents during the pandemic.
"Well, as we've seen in the past few years, think about what would COVID and the violence against the AAPI community. And so the concerns are the violence against the LGBTQ+ community, which is already quite high in Kern County... especially our black trans folks are often prone to have violence committed against them just for being who they are. And so that's something that we're really concerned about. Which is why we want to step ahead of the situation and give more input and information education to the public."
The study by USC-Annenberg also said two out of three people said they "aren't sure" or "don't believe" a monkeypox vaccine exists even though a vaccine does exist.
An analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed fewer than 1 in 10 infected people (8%) needed hospitalization due to monkeypox. No deaths were reported.
The Public Health Department says the monkeypox vaccination event set for this Sunday is now full and there are no more appointments or spots left. However, a new clinic has been set up for the following Sunday, August 13th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Monkeypox misinformation and conspiracy theories
Most Americans reject conspiracy theories alleging that monkeypox was bioengineered in a lab or was intentionally released. However, here, too, the Annenberg ASK survey found that worrisome numbers have either accepted one of four conspiracy theories or are unsure whether they are true or false.
- Bioengineered in a lab: Over half of those surveyed (54%) reject as false the idea that monkeypox was bioengineered in a lab, though a third (34%) are not sure if that is true or false and 12% say this is probably or definitely true. There is no evidence of this.
- Of the small minority who believe that the monkeypox was bioengineered in a lab, 56% say the lab was in China; 16% say the United States; 15% Russia; 12% some other country.
- Intentional release (asked of a half-sample): Over half (56%) said that it was definitely or probably false to state that monkeypox was intentionally released, though 30% were not sure and 14% thought that was probably or definitely true. There is no evidence of this.
- Released to help Biden (asked of a half-sample): 71% reject as false the statement that monkeypox was intentionally released by scientists to deflect attention from the failures of the Biden administration. However, 19% said they were not sure whether this is true or false, and 10% said it was probably or definitely true. There is no evidence of this.
- Caused by exposure to 5G: A large majority (78%) correctly said it is false to assert that monkeypox is caused by exposure to a 5G signal, though 21% were not sure.