Infectious Disease Specialist Debunks 5 Mpox Myths

While the U.S. saw a surge of case numbers during the summer of 2022, the public health emergency declaration in the United States for mpox (monkeypox) has since ended (via CNN). Even so, common misconceptions about the disease continue to circulate amongst the public. In an interview with Health Digest, Vincent Hsu, MD, an infectious disease specialist and AdventHealth's Infection Control Officer, identifies five commonly-believed myths surrounding mpox and shares the facts behind each.

Dr. Hsu says the first myth he often hears is that the mpox outbreak is over and there is no more risk of infection. "While the mpox outbreak has subsided and risk of infection is much lower now, there are still infections that are being transmitted to others," he states. This leads him to the second myth, which is that at-risk individuals no longer need to get the mpox vaccine. Dr. Hsu states, "Because the outbreak is not eradicated, people at risk of getting mpox should still reduce their risk by getting vaccinated."

Myths surrounding mpox symptoms and transmission

Dr. Hsu next goes on to address myths regarding mpox symptoms and transmission. The third myth, he says, is that an individual can't transmit mpox if they are asymptomatic. "We have learned more recently that transmission can occur even before the onset of symptoms such as fever or rash," Dr. Hsu states. "However, we have not seen evidence of transmission if you never develop any symptoms later."

Dr. Hsu says that the fourth myth he often hears about mpox is that "if [you] don't notice symptoms soon after [you've] been exposed to mpox, that means [you] haven't contracted it." However, Dr. Hsu explains that symptoms don't always come on immediately. "It can take 3 weeks or more after exposure to develop symptoms, and the time period just before and during symptoms is when you are at greatest risk of transmitting to others," he says.

Seek information through trusted sources

Dr. Hsu tells Health Digest that the fifth and final myth he often hears is that mpox can be contracted through casual contact. However, he states that this is not the case. "Mpox is spread through close personal, usually skin-to-skin contact, and sexual contact — but not through casual contact," he confirms.

"We have learned many new things about mpox over the course of this outbreak," Dr. Hsu states. For this reason, he emphasizes the importance of staying up-to-date on the latest, most accurate information regarding the spread of the illness. "Keeping close tabs on the latest developments provided through reliable and trusted sources such as local public health agencies and the CDC will aid in debunking myths and controlling the spread of mpox," Dr. Hsu states.

Dr. Hsu concludes the interview by outlining steps to take if you suspect possible mpox infection. "Understand what your risk is. If you're in a high-risk group, pay attention to sources of close contact," he says. "Recognizing that symptoms — fever, malaise, headache, rash — could be indicative of a number of things. Immediately speak with your healthcare provider, seek care, and get tested."