The New Jersey Department of Health, as of Aug. 25, is reporting 471 probable and confirmed cases of monkeypox in the Garden State. As the number of cases increase, so does the amount of misinformation being spread about the virus. In fact, officials from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness have issued a warning about a monkeypox disinformation campaign that's being waged on social media sites.

According to Tom Hauck, the director of intelligence and operations for the NJOHSP, a number of wildly inaccurate and potentially dangerous claims about the virus are being circulated, including allegations “that a lab released the virus, in addition to it being a byproduct of the COVID-19 vaccinations.”

More fake claims

Hauck said recently a video titled "They're Lying to You About Monkeypox," was posted on Twitter, which made several false claims about the virus including that the media was intentionally deceiving the gay community and the public.

In another instance, according to Hauck, a Facebook user posted a phony graphic indicating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization had amended their monkeypox guidance.

“The image included false claims such as monkeypox is a form of herpes, and that it travels in the air or it can lead to paralysis.”

Why this is so dangerous?

Hauck said the NJOHSP is working to make sure people know these claims are false.

“Disinformation has the potential to incite panic, create distrust between the government and people, increases polarization.”

Hauck said this type of disinformation can also impact people's health decisions.

“Disinformation may cause people who are infected to avoid treatment or vaccination as they may feel stigmatized, hampering efforts to help those individuals and curb the outbreak.”

Monkeypox JYNNEOS vaccine (via hhs.gov) NJ vaccine plan 2022
Monkeypox JYNNEOS vaccine (via hhs.gov)
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Phony finger of blame

Hauck pointed out there is also concern because “some of this disinformation stems from COVID-19 conspiracy theories, but much of it attempts to pin blame for the outbreak on the LGBTQ+ communities.”

He said if members of the public come across monkeypox disinformation that contains a threat or a call to action “or incites potential violence or appears to have a nexus to terrorism, we’d want them to reach out to us.”

You can reach NJOHSP at 1-866-4SAFE-NJ or by visiting njohsp.gov.

More information about monkeypox is available at cdc.gov, and the New Jersey Health Department website.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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