Conspiracy theorists claim woman has died of Monkeypox. She is alive and ‘doing good’

·3 min read

A Pennsylvania woman who helped rescue lab monkeys that had escaped after a truck crash has had to deny conspiracy theories that she died of Monkeypox.

Michele Fallon, 45, witnessed the 21 January crash between a dump truck and a vehicle transporting 100 lab research monkeys near her hometown of Danville, and tried to help some of the fleeing animals.

Conspiracy peddlers on Reddit and Telegram latched on to her story after she developed mild cold and pink eye symptoms, possibly from being exposed to a virus the monkeys were carrying.

They initially claimed the truck crash was part of a plot to spread a new bioweapon throughout the United States.

Then when the first cases of Monkeypox were reported in the United States in May, the conspiracists linked the outbreak to the truck crash, and claimed that Ms Fallon had died.

“Holy s***....they covered up Michele Lee Fallons death. She was the one exposed to Monkeypox,” wrote one Reddit user on the Conspiracy subreddit in May.

Michele Fallon has had to deny a viral rumor that she died of Monkeypox (Inside Edition)
Michele Fallon has had to deny a viral rumor that she died of Monkeypox (Inside Edition)

Another accused her of being a crisis actor, and claimed an image on her Facebook page was an “infamous symbol of the cabal”.

Last week Ms Fallon took to social media to try to put the rumours to bed.

“So people are saying I’m dead from monkey pox. I’m alive and doing good,” she tweeted.

Ms Fallon told The Daily Beast in an interview that it was bizarre to witness how the conspiracy evolved from accusing her of making up her encounter with the monkeys, to claiming she had died.

“One minute you’re saying I’m fake, and now you’re saying I’m real,” she said.

The Daily Beast reported that rumours of her death had gained traction when someone found an obituary for a West Virginia woman named Michele Lee Fallon Riffle.

This was shared widely amongst the conspiracy community as evidence of her demise.

Some of the monkeys who escaped after a highway crash in rural Pennsylvania in January (Pennsylvania State Police)
Some of the monkeys who escaped after a highway crash in rural Pennsylvania in January (Pennsylvania State Police)

The news site tracked down the Ms Fallon Riffle’s son who explained that his mother had died of a heart attack.

“I can assure you my mother is not the same woman from Pennsylvania,” Jesse Riffle told The Daily Beast, and pleaded with those spreading the fake theories to leave his mother out of it.

Ms Fallon said she and her family had suffered months of abuse and harassment at the hands of the conspiracists.

She had tried to confront those spreading the rumours online, asking them to correct false statements about her, but that had proved futile.

Now, she’s just trying to ignore the noise.

Ms Fallon said that even after her bruising experience she would still stop to help animals if she came across them in a traffic accident. Even if it was monkeys.

The monkeys involved in the crash were part of a shipment of 100 cynomolgus macaques that were being shipped from Mauritius to a Florida quarantine facility.

Three animals that escaped were caught soon afterwards, and were later euthanised.

At least 45 cases of Monkeypox have been detected in 15 US states, but the Biden administration insists the risk to the public remains low.