WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
- A recent Annenberg survey found that 1 in 5 Americans worry that they’ll contract monkeypox in the next three months.
- It is clear that most people do not fully understand how one can get infected by the virus.
- Mixed information about COVID-19 during its early days, misinformation, and conspiracy theories are the factors that heighten the worry.
One in 5 Americans (about 20%) is worried they’ll contract monkeypox in the next three months, according to a new survey from the Annenberg Public Policy Center. Clearly, the public’s understanding of the virus is very little.
Public health officials say the monkeypox outbreaks are in the early stages in the U.S. and not nearly as dangerous as early COVID-19 outbreaks were. However, similar to the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials face challenges like educating people about a virus they are not familiar with and launching vaccination efforts.
Nearly 50% of the survey responders say they are unsure whether monkeypox is less contagious than COVID-19. About 69% correctly identified the way monkeypox usually spreads, which is through close contact with an infected individual.
Two-thirds don’t know there’s a vaccine against monkeypox or aren’t sure if it exists. (
On Thursday, the Biden administration announced that it’s allocating another 786,000 doses of vaccine for monkeypox in addition to the more than 340,000 it already distributed earlier this July.
Women are more worried than men about contracting monkeypox, even though it has already been widely reported that the majority of U.S. cases have been among men.
Mixed messaging and misinformation about COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic affect the public’s sentiment on monkeypox, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg center, said.
“There is some suspicion scientists don’t know what they know, so that translates to higher worry,” Jamieson told Axios.
Misinformation and conspiracy theories are also factors that increase the concerns.
Twelve percent of respondents in the survey said they believe monkeypox was probably or definitely created in a laboratory; while 21% said they were unsure whether it was caused by exposure to a 5G signal.
Some think the virus is a sexually transmitted disease due to information that it has so far spread primarily among men who have sex with men.
Perceptions of risk could change if monkeypox gets transmitted in a different way, or if it continues to affect children.
“If kids get it and there’s been no contact with individuals at risk, then you have a completely different situation than you have now,” Jamieson said.