Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Fear of Monkeypox Isn’t Irrational, It Makes Good Sense

The monkeypox virus is so contagious and there is so much misinformation that fear is the current state of affairs. Who is properly addressing it?

Monkeypox, a virus was first discovered in monkeys in 1958 and first infected humans in 1970 in the Congo. Since that time the virus has progressed to other areas of the world. Because of its ability to spread incredibly quickly and the unknowns of this illness in other parts of the world, fear is endemic and that remains the current enemy of the medical community.

As of this writing, total USA confirmed monkeypox/orthopoxvirus cases: 4,907. Globally there are 21,148. But the virus has an incredible ability to spread quickly. And it is NOT benign.

According to a World Health Organization report from 22 July, only five deaths had been reported worldwide, all in Africa.

The WHO last Saturday declared the rapidly spreading outbreak a global health emergency, its highest level of alert.

I received a tweet in my Twitter feed yesterday that indicated someone’s mother had symptoms of monkeypox in the United States. Family members took her to an emergency room where she was denied testing.

They said she wasn’t gay so there was no need to test her. This is a blatant example of medical incompetence and must be treated as such immediately. In my opinion, all licensed personnel connected with this incident need to be reported to their licensing boards for action.

Experts in virology have stated that they’ve never seen an outbreak like this before, so it is an unknown and potentially a serious global health issue. Unfortunately, the virus has been attributed to gay men, Africans and people of color, which is patently false. Anyone living in a household where someone has contracted monkeypox is at risk and they will experience the stigma.

What Are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash that forms blisters and then crusts over. The onset of symptoms from the time of exposure may range from 5 to 21 days and the duration of symptoms is 2 to 4 weeks.

Although there may be mild symptoms, which may occur without the illness being known, the classic presentation is fever and muscle pains with swollen glands. Cases may be severe in children, pregnant women, or persons with immune system deficiency.

Many people infected with monkeypox virus have a mild, self-limiting disease course in the absence of specific therapy. However, the prognosis for monkeypox depends on multiple factors, such as previous vaccination status, initial health status, concurrent illnesses, and comorbidities among others…Currently there is no treatment approved specifically for monkeypox virus infections.

In 2018, the F.D.A. approved a drug to treat smallpox called tecovirimat, or TPOXX, based on data from animal studies. There are only limited data on its use in people.

How Is It Transmitted?

Monkeypox spreads in different ways. The virus can spread from person-to-person through: direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
respiratory secretions 
during prolonged, face-to-face contact, or during intimate physical contact, such as kissing, cuddling, or sex, touching items
(such as clothing or linens
) that previously touched the infectious rash or body fluids. Pregnant people can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal, by preparing or eating meat, or by using products from an infected animal.

Myths About Monkeypox

Physicians are not exempt from being poorly informed about monkeypox and this lack of appropriate, accurate information is not in the best interest of the patients and the nation. What are the myths that physicians need to stop believing?

One myth is that monkeypox is a new virus and it isn’t. The first case of monkeypox was documented in 1958 in monkeys in research facilities and in 1978 it was seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The second myth is that monkeypox is a sexually transmitted infection and as can be seen from the information above, it can be contracted in a number of different ways, including contaminated bedsheets and clothing. Even holding hands or hugging can spread monkeypox.

The third myth is that monkeypox affects only gay and bisexual men, which is false. Anyone whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual can catch monkeypox.

The fourth myth is that monkeypox is the next COVID-19. It does not attack the respiratory system, although respiratory droplets from an infected person can spread it.

The fifth myth is that monkeypox only affects people in African countries and, as shown here, it has spread around the world.

The last myth is that we don’t need to worry about monkeypox. Remember, this is a virus, and viruses mutate, and the longer a virus is in any population, it has the opportunity to change, become more contagious, or become deadly.

The only way to prevent the spread of monkeypox or other viral illnesses is through vaccination whenever one is available.

Fear brought on by lack of accurate information is the engine driving strong attention to this virus and causing undue stigma and danger (both physical and mental) to individuals. This is not a new gay plague or anything of the sort. It is a virus that jumped from animals to humans, and now it will infect any host in the area where it exists.

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Pat Farrell PhD
Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.


Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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