Fact check: Altered image falsely attributes erroneous monkeypox claims to BBC, WHO and CDC

·4 min read

The claim: Image shows BBC graphic that reports CDC has classified monkeypox as airborne, anyone within 15 feet can catch it

As the number of monkeypox cases continues climbing across the country, some social media users are making dubious claims about the virus outbreak.

“CDC has now classified this disease as airborne and anybody within 15 feet can catch it,” read part of an Aug. 3 Facebook post that was shared nearly 700 times in less than five days.

Other versions of the post, which included an array of other claims about the disease, racked up hundreds of additional shares across the platform.

But the CDC did not issue any such guidance on monkeypox. Neither the CDC nor the WHO websites have information substantiating that or any of the other claims in the post.

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USA TODAY reached out to social media users who shared the claim for comment.

Pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic on Aug. 3, 2022, in West Hollywood, Calif.
Pop-up monkeypox vaccination clinic on Aug. 3, 2022, in West Hollywood, Calif.

BBC didn't create graphic, health officials say claims are false

While the BBC has covered the monkeypox outbreak, it hasn't reported any of the claims presented in the Facebook post.

"We can confirm that this is not a real BBC graphic and we urge people to check the veracity of stories on the BBC News website," a BBC spokesperson said in a statement emailed to USA TODAY on Aug. 9.

Kate Fowlie, a spokesperson for the CDC, told USA TODAY in an Aug. 4 email that it “isn’t correct" that the organization classified monkeypox as an airborne disease.

While Fowlie said monkeypox “may also spread through respiratory secretions when people have close, face-to-face contact,” there is no evidence it would infect anyone within a 15-foot radius. Her comments echo guidance from the CDC’s website.

“It is not known to linger in the air and is not transmitted during short periods of shared airspace,” Fowlie said.

A WHO spokesperson said the organization "has not made these claims" in a statement emailed to USA TODAY on Aug. 8.

While CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in June that monkeypox symptoms can resemble those of herpes, the two are not in the same virus family.

According to WHO’s website, the monkeypox virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus of the poxviridae family. Genital herpes, which the CDC describes as a sexually transmitted infection caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2, belongs to the herpesviridae family.

Myths about monkeypox: A look at symptoms, treatment and other common questions

Both the CDC and WHO say monkeypox symptoms typically last between two and four weeks, not two and four months as the Facebook post claims.

USA TODAY found no reports that monkeypox can lead to paralysis, and it is not listed on WHO's website as a potential severe complication of the virus.

Fact-checking organizations including Reuters, PolitiFact, The Associated Press and FactCheck.org also debunked the claim.

Our rating: Altered

Based on our research, we rate ALTERED an image that claims to show a BBC graphic reporting the CDC has classified monkeypox as airborne and anyone within 15 feet can catch it. The BBC said it did not create the graphic, the CDC issued no such update to its monkeypox classification, and both the CDC and WHO said the claims in the Facebook post were false. 

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Fake BBC graphic lists false monkeypox claims