While Chinese state media hasn’t thus far made such an accusation – it previously hit back at the ‘lab leak hypothesis’ by suggesting the COVID-19 virus originated in the US – that hasn’t stopped social media users
When COVID-19 first began to spread, many on social media platforms and in news outlets in the US openly wondered whether the virus leaked from a lab in Wuhan.
Now, with monkeypox spreading to over a dozen countries across the world it seems that the shoe is on the other foot.
According to Fortune, social media users in China are breathlessly speculating that the US could have deliberately spread monkeypox.
As per the report, monkeypox has been trending on social media platform Weibo – these Chinese equivalent of Twitter – for the past three days with a hashtag on the US reporting two suspected monkeypox cases attracting more than 51 million views.
While Chinese State media hasn’t thus far made such an accusation – it previously hit back at the so-called ‘lab leak hypothesis’ by suggesting the COVID-19 virus originated in the US – that hasn’t stopped social media users.
Fortune reported that nationalist influencer Shu Chang, who has 6.41 million followers on Weibo, deliberately misconstrued a 2021 report by an NGO on biosecurity preparedness to claim “a plan by the US to leak bioengineered monkeypox virus.”
The post was liked by more than 7,500 users and received more than 660 comments, many of them in support of the post. One user said that the US was “evil beyond the imagination of humankind.”
“If the US let loose the virus to spread around the world, it’s harming the global health of people,” another Weibo user wrote, according to Insider. “The US should be reprimanded by the international community and made to pay compensation”.
Another added: “The US is known for creating viruses to harm the entire globe”.
What does the report say?
As per the Daily Mail, the report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), which models responses to weapons of mass destruction, focusing on nuclear, cyber, biological, radiological and chemical attacks, describes a hypothetical scenario for an outbreak of monkeypox.
After the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the NTI partnered with the Munich Security Conference (MSC) to conduct a tabletop exercise aimed at reducing biological threats. The example they chose for the exercise was ‘an unusual strain of monkeypox virus’, the newspaper reported.
In the exercise, the two groups modelled the outbreak of the monkeypox strain in a fictional country called ‘Brinia’ which eventually spreads globally, measured over 18 months.
In the scenario, the initial outbreak was caused ‘by a terrorist attack using a pathogen engineered in a laboratory with inadequate biosafety and biosecurity provisions and weak oversight.’
By the end of the exercise, the fictional pandemic resulted in more than three billion cases and 270 million fatalities worldwide, Daily Mail reported
Monkeypox, which is not usually fatal, can cause a fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.
The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets of bodily fluid from an infected person.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says monkeypox is spread by coming into close contact with an infected animal or person, and mainly through respiratory droplets.
After outbreaks in Europe and North America, the World Health Organization on Monday said the risk of the disease spreading widely among the general population is very low.
Transmission can be stopped outside endemic countries in Central and West Africa, the WHO said, adding that fewer than 200 confirmed and suspected cases had been recorded since early May in Australia, Europe and North America.
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