Chinese internet users are now promoting a conspiracy theory that blames the United States for creating and leaking the monkeypox virus that is currently spreading around the world.
While Chinese state media has not accused the US of creating or leaking monkeypox, many social media users created viral topics on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform, claiming that the US planned the outbreak.
“The US is known for creating viruses that harm the entire world,” read a user’s comment, translated by The Business Insider.
Another user claimed that the US should pay a fee for spreading the monkeypox virus around the world. “If the US releases the virus to spread around the world, it will harm people’s health worldwide. The US should be reprimanded by the international community and pay compensation,” the Weibo user wrote in a post.
Shu Chang, a nationalist Chinese influencer with 6.41 million followers on Weibo, also shared a misinterpreted version of a 2021 report on biosecurity preparation by a US nonprofit, Nuclear Threat Initiative. The influencer said the report was a clear indication that the US was planning to leak the “bioengineered monkeypox virus”.
Contrary to the conspiracy theories, the monkeypox virus was first discovered in 1958, with the first case being recorded in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Over the years, health experts in the US have discovered rare cases of monkey pox, in which sores and rashes appear all over the body in infected individuals. The US reported the first domestic outbreak of monkeypox in 2003 after some patients came into contact with prairie dogs housed near other animals imported from Ghana.
In 2021, US health officials also reported two cases of monkeypox in two people traveling from Nigeria to Dallas, Texas.
As of Wednesday, more than 250 cases of monkeypox have been reported in at least 16 countries, most of them in Europe. In the US, officials have confirmed one case of monkeypox in Massachusetts. Officials have also identified suspected cases of monkeypox in California, Florida, New York, Washington state and two in Utah.
Monkeypox has an incubation period of seven to fourteen days. Symptoms usually include fever, chills, exhaustion, headache, and swelling of the lymph nodes. The virus is usually transmitted by animals, but can also be transmitted by humans, with recovery occurring within weeks and most people not requiring hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What sets monkeypox apart from other diseases is the development of a widespread rash on the patient’s face and body, including in the mouth and on the palms. The rash is filled with fluid. The lesions tend to disappear in three weeks.