KEY POINTS

  • Chinese netizens claim the U.S. planned the monkeypox outbreak
  • Another Chinese netizen said the U.S. should pay compensation for the monkeypox outbreak
  • More than 250 cases of monkeypox have been reported in 16 countries

Chinese netizens are now promoting a conspiracy theory blaming the United States for creating and leaking the monkeypox virus currently spreading around the world. 

Though Chinese state media has refrained from accusing the U.S. of creating or leaking monkeypox, many social media users created viral topics thread on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform where they claimed the U.S. has planned the outbreak. 

"The US is known for creating viruses to harm the entire globe," one user's comment read, as translated by The Business Insider.

Another user claimed the U.S. should pay compensation for letting the monkeypox virus loose around the world. "If the US let loose the virus to spread around the world, it's harming the global health of people. The US should be reprimanded by the international community and made to pay compensation," the Weibo user wrote in a post.

Shu Chang, a nationalist Chinese influencer who has 6.41 million followers on Weibo, also shared a misconstrued version of a 2021 report on biosecurity preparedness planning by a U.S. nonprofit organization, Nuclear Threat Initiative. The influencer said the report was a clear indication that the U.S. planned to leak the "bioengineered monkeypox virus."

 Contrary to the conspiracy theories, the monkeypox virus was first discovered in 1958, with the first case being logged in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Over the years, health experts in the U.S. have detected rare instances of monkeypox where boils and full-body rashes appear on infected individuals. The U.S. reported the first domestic monkeypox outbreak in 2003 after some patients came into contact with prairie dogs housed near other animals imported from Ghana. 

In 2021, U.S. health officials also reported two cases of monkeypox in two people who traveled to Dallas, Texas, from Nigeria. 

As of Wednesday, more than 250 cases of monkeypox have been reported in at least 16 countries, most of which are in Europe.  In the U.S., 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 between seven to 14 days. Symptoms typically include fever, chills, exhaustion, headache and swelling of lymph nodes. The virus is typically transmitted from animals but can also be transmitted from humans, with recovery occurring within several weeks and most people not requiring hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What distinguishes monkeypox from other illnesses is the development of a widespread rash on the patient’s face and body, including inside the mouth and on the palms. The rashes are filled with fluid. The lesions tend to resolve over three weeks.

While monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, WHO officials think it can be contained elsewhere While monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, WHO officials think it can be contained elsewhere Photo: AFP / CHARLES BOUESSEL