A TikTok video shared on Facebook claims that monkeypox is a biological warfare tactic “against us by our governments”.
The person in the video points to pages about monkeypox in two books about biological warfare agents. But the infection is included in these textbooks because of its potential for being used as a warfare agent. It does not mean that any occurence of it is really biological warfare by the World Health Organisation, International Monetary Fund, Bill Gates or “our governments” as the video claims.
We have found no evidence of monkeypox being used as a biological warfare agent previously. There have been some reports that Russia had previously looked at using the virus in this way, but there’s no evidence that the current outbreak was caused by biological warfare.
What is monkeypox?
As of 26 May there have been 106 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the UK since the first were detected early this month.
Monkeypox symptoms include a high temperature, headache, and muscle ache, followed by a rash that often starts on the face before spreading to other parts of the body. It’s transmitted via close contact with lesions, body fluids, respiratory droplets and contaminated materials such as bedding.
The disease was first discovered in 1958 in monkeys kept for research, and the first human case was recorded in 1970. There have been several monkeypox outbreaks in humans in the past—both in some African countries where the disease is endemic, and in other countries that it has spread to.
Monkeypox being included in textbooks about potential weapons of biological warfare does not mean the current cases are biological warfare
The man in the video opens a textbook called “Biological Warfare Pathogen Perspectives” which is described as covering “aspects such as the molecular biology of the pathogen, differential diagnoses, treatment options and decontamination measures for thirty-five weaponized (or potentially weaponized) biological warfare agents.”
He points to an entry on monkeypox, which describes the disease, but does not appear to say it is being used as a biological warfare agent.
The second book he opens is the “Handbook of Chemical and Biological Warfare Agents” by D. Hank Ellison. He turns to a page on monkeypox which also describes the disease, but also does not say it is being used as a chemical warfare agent.
We found a higher quality version of the video on TikTok (not the original though, which appears to have been removed). If you pause it, you can read the entries more clearly. Neither say the virus is being used as a biological warfare agent.
Monkeypox is included on a US government list of “Select Agents and Toxins” which “have been determined to have the potential to pose a severe threat to both human and animal health, to plant health, or to animal and plant products”.
Grant McFadden, a virology professor at Arizona State University with expertise in poxviruses, told Politifact that monkeypox being on this list essentially meant scientists had to “go through an extreme amount of bureaucratic licensure” to work with it in a lab.
He also told Politifact there was “really no connection to reality” that monkeypox is being used as biological warfare.
Image courtesy of the CDC