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Monique Curet
By Monique Curet May 24, 2022

No evidence current monkeypox outbreak was planned

If Your Time is short

There is no evidence a recent surge in monkeypox cases was planned by government and industry leaders.

 

As monkeypox cases spread around the world, conspiracy theories about the virus are also spreading across social media.

On Facebook, different users are suggesting the monkeypox outbreak was planned by government and industry leaders.

One post is a screenshot of a tweet that says, "Last year the U.S. government, Chinese government, Bill Gates, J&J, the UN, WHO, Merck and more participated in a monkeypox ‘tabletop exercise’ where terrorists released an engineered monkeypox virus on May 15, 2022. Weird." The caption reads, "Surely this is just a coincidence."

A Rumble video titled "BOOM! Caught Red Handed Planning Monkeypox Pandemic," referenced the same event.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The notion that the outbreak was planned also has gone viral on social media in China, the Daily Mail reported.

There is no evidence the recent surge in monkeypox cases was planned. Public health investigators are still researching how the disease spread. An adviser to the World Health Organization said the outbreak "appears to have been caused by sexual activity at two recent raves in Europe," the Associated Press reported.

In 2021, leaders from public health, the biotechnology industry, international security and philanthropy gathered for discussion of a simulated scenario where an oubreak of an "unusual strain of monkeypox virus" was "caused by a terrorist attack using a pathogen engineered in a laboratory," according to a report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the event organizer.

NTI is a nonprofit organization, founded by former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and philanthropist Ted Turner, that is focused on reducing biological threats. The organization also led a February 2022 exercise that centered on a fictional virus called Akhmeta.

The 2021 monkeypox event did include the attendees listed in the tweet — except for Bill Gates. He did not personally attend, but a representative from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation did.

The simulated scenario also listed the initial "attack" occuring on May 15, 2022, as the tweet says. The first cases in the current outbreak were reported to the WHO on May 13.

The event report said the exercise was aimed at examining "gaps in national and international biosecurity and pandemic preparedness architectures" and "exploring opportunities to improve capabilities to prevent and respond to high-consequence biological events."

Simulated events have been the subject of misinformation before, but the events are not unusual when it comes to pandemic planning —and they are not proof that pandemics or disease outbreaks are an inside job.

Unlike the 2021 tabletop scenario, though, there’s nothing unusual or mysterious about the origin of the current monkeypox strain. Cases linked to the current outbreak have all belonged to one of two previously identified genetic groups of the monkeypox virus, according to the WHO. And genetic sequencing of one sample from a confirmed case indicated that the virus currently circulating matches cases exported from Nigeria to other countries in 2018 and 2019, the WHO reported.

The World Health Organization reported that the virus currently seems to be spreading by "human-to-human transmission …occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic." Cases have been identified primarily among men who have sex with men.

Our ruling

A Facebook post suggests the current monkeypox outbreak was planned by government and industry leaders.

There is no evidence the outbreak was planned.

In 2021, leaders from government, public health and industry discussed a simulated scenario of a monkeypox outbreak. The event was aimed at examining gaps in biosecurity and exploring ways to improve responses to threats.

We rate this claim False.

RELATED: What to know about the monkeypox outbreak

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No evidence current monkeypox outbreak was planned

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